Friday, November 27, 2009

On the Write Track

This has been a pretty slow year for me business-wise. While I'd like to blame the economy, my own listlessness is the real problem. Maybe reading a few books about writing will give me the kick in the ass I so desperately need. Speaking of kicking...

And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft by Mike Sacks - I knew I'd like this book, but I didn't think I'd plow through its 337 pages so quickly. To my surprise, I even enjoyed the chapters about writers whose work I have never read or seen. I wish Sacks had spoken with more stand-up comedians and fewer TV writers, but that's just my personal preference. The six interludes of "Quick and Painless Advice for the Aspiring Humor Writer" are very useful; I only wish there were more. And Here's the Kicker has a misleading subtitle, however. Most of Sacks' questions cover what the writers have done rather than how they do it, so the focus isn't really on "their craft." Regardless, I'd recommend this book not only to humor writers but also to fans of comedy in general who like to hear "behind the scenes" stories. Note: See the book's Web site for excerpts and bonus interviews.

Some Writers Deserve to Starve! 31 Brutal Truths About the Publishing Industry by Elaura Niles - This humorous look at getting a book printed imparts many valuable lessons about dealing with agents, publishers, and fellow writers. Aspiring authors will learn a lot, and published authors will laugh or sigh in agreement with many of these "brutal truths." Niles includes many anecdotes from her own experiences and those of others. It's a quick read in an informal format, but the information is pretty good.

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost - Like Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, 100 Ways is a book that I purchased years ago when I changed careers. There are a hundred similar books out there, and getting a variety of perspectives about how to write well is a good thing -- as long as one doesn't spend more time reading about writing than actually doing it. Provost's book is as helpful as many others, although parts are quaintly outdated (don't type your final draft on onion skin paper!). Just the fact that it's still in print after 37 years is evidence of its value. Most of these tips are applicable to all writing; don't look here for genre-specific guidance. Also the format is convenient for reading in small chunks a few minutes at a time.

Current tally: 90 books finished, 83 books acquired

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