I came across The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, & Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig while browsing the reference section at Chapters. (Yes, I browse in the reference section.) It stuck out from the books around it because of its format and gritty cover design, so I picked it up.
Like other books about writing, it offers guidance and advice, but it does so in list form. Each chapter has twenty-five points and each point is accompanied by a short explanation.
Entertainment Value: Medium
Wendig fills his advice with humour and a degree of irreverence. He writes in a conversational tone that is easy and fun to follow. While the listicle format is a bit novel and it initially intrigued me, there were instances where I felt points got repetitive.
Still, the format and language make this far from a dry read, which I’m sure anyone familiar with writing manuals will appreciate.
There are a ton of different subjects covered in this book. He covers fundamentals, elements of craft, and the publishing business itself.
I think the last section is particularly helpful in today’s publishing climate. He talks agents and querying, discusses social media and blogging, and compares traditional and self-publishing. Basically, he gives an overview—albeit a brief one—of everything one should learn about going into the writing business.
While the listicle structure makes all the information easy to understand and the book easy to pick up and consume in short chunks, it is limiting. The format prevents going too in-depth on any particular subject and sometimes leaves you wanting more. But the points do build on one another, and at the very least, give readers a starting point for further research.
Aiming for B+
In a chapter on “things you should know about being a writer,” Wendig says that “writing is rewriting.” This is a common view. But he goes on to talk about knowing when to put down the pen or step away from the keyboard. He suggests giving up on perfect (because “you don’t know shit about perfect”) and aiming for B+ instead. He says to let others help get you to A. I always like reminders that we don’t have to be perfect, and Wendig combines this reminder with an acknowledgement of the work of editors, which I also appreciate.
We often discuss traditional vs indie authors, but there’s another option: the hybrid author. According to Wendig, “the hybrid author embraces many (or all) forms, modes, and mechanisms of publishing.” Too often, I think we’re sold the either/or approach, so it is nice to see someone in the industry argue that writers don’t necessarily have to choose.
Plot vs Story vs Theme
Wendig breaks down the difference between these three words. Plot is the sequence of events. Story is what you’re writing about. And theme is the argument your story is making. No, these aren’t groundbreaking distinctions, but by separating these three and expanding on them, Wendig makes you consider each independently. This can be helpful when planning your writing.
Writers need to be readers. You probably already know this. However, Wendig reminds us that we need to not only read but to read widely. It’s important to read outside the genres you enjoy or write in. Wendig even argues to read and consume media beyond books. Read books, yes. But also read scripts and watch television and film. To use Wendig’s words, “don’t be a book racist.”
Have you read The Kick-Ass Writer? What did you like about it? Share your thoughts in the comments.