The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell


THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS is such a violent title for such a gentle book. I expected it to be an expansion of Sun Tzu’s THE ART OF WAR, perhaps showing how the famous general’s strategies and philosophies could be applied to the writing life. However, except for a few choice quotes, Bell ignores Sun Tzu’s book. Instead, he offers writers short, easy lessons on things like staying motivated, finishing what you start, keeping a journal, and writing solid scenes. Unlike Sun Tzu, who treated people like pawns and his generals like idiots, Bell respects writers. He tells the truth, but always wrapped in encouragement and love of the craft.

THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS is divided into three sections. The first is called “Reconnaissance.” Here, Bell talks about the writer’s lifestyle, giving advice on discipline, staying on schedule, ignoring the competition, and keeping your ego in check.

The next section, “Tactics,” is about the craft of writing, from premise to final polish. Bell examines all the expected topics like point of view, dialogue, pacing, characterization, and exposition.

The last section is called “Strategy,” where Bell discusses the basics of writing for publication: networking, finding an agent, writing a synopsis, and handling rejection. Combined, these three sections cover just about anything a beginning writer needs to know about how to write a book and get it published.

I enjoyed THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS a lot, but I kept coming back to the gimmicky title. Calling something “The Art of War” assumes that there’s an enemy to fight. But who is the writer’s enemy? Agents and editors are our allies, and our readers are our comrades-in-arms, helping us achieve our dreams. Nor is the book the enemy, as some writers seem to think.

A writer’s enemy can be found only one place: the mirror. When starting a writing career, we are our own worst enemies. Bell wants all writers to overcome their own self-defeating behaviors. Armed with THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS, writers will emerge victorious with the spoils of war (a finished novel) in hand.


THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS can be found here.


rating: 4 stars



This book is best for: beginning writers


I recommend this book.

3 thoughts on “The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

  1. Maybe Strategy for Writers would be a more accurate title? Or Military Strategy as it Relates to Writers? Sounds solid though.

  2. Oh, yes. I know I am my own worst enemy when it comes to writing. Sometimes it does feel like a war between two different visions of myself: the one who wants to be the best writer she can be, and the one who thinks I probably have nothing relevant to say. I think that remembering that I write for joy, and to feel connected to something greater than myself is how I stop fighting. It’s my way of defusing the bombs, but it’s not easy. It sounds like Scott Bell knows something of this inner fight. Anyone who writes knows something of it, but not everyone thinks to share what they have learned. Thanks for bringing The Art of War for Writers to my attention!


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