I’ve always enjoyed James Scott Bell’s blog and was happy to find a collection of his posts on writing. Sometimes essay collections can be uneven or repetitive, but these were carefully selected to cover a wide range of topics without repeating any. WRITING FICTION FOR ALL YOU’RE WORTH is an inspirational book, but it’s not all empty cheerleading. Bell is so absolutely convinced that you can write that soon you’ll believe it too. More importantly, he’s going to show you how.
Bell says writers should push themselves, committing to never-ending self-improvement. He shows writers how to set up a schedule, how to study other books, and how to stay focused. He recommends a weekly (rather than daily) word count goal so that one bad day doesn’t derail the whole program. He stresses the inner work a writer must do to have a long-term career. Every writer has envy and arrogance and impatience but we can’t write well until we deal with it.
In the middle section, Bell covers matters of craft like how much backstory to put in or when to use prologues or how to write a synopsis. His advice is practical and to the point. I especially liked the chapter on using smell in fiction—the forgotten sense. He includes evocative examples from Dean Koontz and Stephen King. The final section is a series of interviews with eleven of the hottest authors today, like Tess Gerritsen and Brad Thor. It’s a pleasure to read writing advice from people at the top of their game.
I always learn a lot from James Scott Bell. He has a knack of telling me what I need to hear, explained in a way I can understand. His style is so smooth that I read all of WRITING FICTION FOR ALL YOU’RE WORTH in one sitting, but it’s a book I’ll go back to again and again.
rating: 5 stars
pie slices: 4 slices inspiration, 4 slices craft
This book is best for: intermediate writers
I recommend this book