How-NOT-To Write Books

by Lillian Csernica on July 22, 2013

I’m going for the alternate prompt today.  Let’s talk about some how-to books that will waste your money, waste your time, and maybe even leave you confused.

The Intransitive Vampire — This is a grammar book.  I’m all for using correct grammar.  What I couldn’t stand about this particular book was the cutesy writing style.  It was nudge nudge wink wink in line after line, making me feel like the author was standing behind the text holding up a big cue card that read, “See how clever I am?”  I bought a copy once, and I’ve been given copies twice.  All three copies are now somewhere else.  If you’re going to write a how-to manual, wouldn’t it make sense to write it in a style that does not aggravate the reader, one that makes the information and technique the main focus?

How to Write a Movie in 21 DaysYes, I did in fact spend a chunk of time writing screenplays in collaboration with a a real live working actor/stuntman who needed someone to create vehicles for him.  I say that just to establish the fact that I understand the mindset you have to acquire to get into the screenplay groove.  21 Days will not help you.  Once again, we have some basic information buried under a lot of marshmallow fluff.  There are much better books on the art of the screenplay.  There is also a lot of software out there to help screenwriters plug characters and action into templates.  (If you want to get a fascinating look into the nitty gritty of Hollywood, read Down and Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind.)

Books such as The Artist’s Way or The Writer’s Book of Days — Here we come to the “Your mileage may vary” type of how-to manual.  Both of these books use words like “spiritual” and “holistic” in their blurbs.  Me, I’m a nuts and bolts writer.  Classic plot structure, rounded characters, and an ending that does not disappoint.  Between the novels and the short stories in the Work-In-Progress files, I’ve got a lot more work than I have time to do.  Sure, writing can be a voyage of self-discovery.  That’s fine.  If you want to make writing your career, you need word quotas and timetables and deadlines and networking and social media.  All of that is hard work.  The more artsy books on writing are fine for those who want to go that route.  I’m just saying they’re not my cup of tea.

If you want to see a list of how-to books I heartily endorse, read this.



Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Writing

9 responses to “How-NOT-To Write Books

  1. I’ll check the list of useful books on writing. Thanks.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)


  2. But the first book has the word vampire in it! Says the vampire junkie. 😉
    I’ve never been a big fan of how to books. That goes back to my high school days and my art teacher. He said how to draw books only teach you to draw that artist’s way, not yours. If I read a book on writing then it’s because friends recommended it.


    • Hi, Patricia! Your art teacher made a good point. These days I read how-to books only when I hear good things. Now, of course, I’m reading about e-publishing….


  3. It was The Artists Way that brought me to writing….I’m not sure I would have caught the bug without it 😉



  4. rebeccadouglass

    I had a similar reaction to the Artists Way. These anecdotes just reinforce my sense that books like that are for some people. I’m just not one of them. I fact, the more I write the less I need pep talks and inspiration, and the more I need suggestions about outlining and timetables and maybe how to rewrite scenes without screwing up the entire book.


    • That’s how it is for me, especially that last bit about rewriting scenes. That’s where I am with my current novel. Every time I go at it, I hope and pray I’m not doing damage.


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