For years, Morrell was a college professor by day and wrote bestselling thrillers at night. His love of teaching comes through in LESSONS FROM A LIFETIME OF WRITING, but reading it does not feel like a lecture. It’s more like sitting down with a mentor over a beer while he talks about the business. Everything Morrell says is from his own experience, and he’s experienced more than most. But like the professor he once was, he takes his teaching duty seriously. He does not talk down to students. He understands their concerns. LESSONS FROM A LIFETIME OF WRITING covers everything from starting a novel to selling the finished product.
Much like Stephen King’s ON WRITING, this is part memoir, part how-to. Morrell discusses his troubled childhood of poverty, and how he was practically raised by television, until one particular TV show made him want to be a writer. But it’s not just self-indulgent navel gazing. Morrell shows us the lessons he learned along the way, and how he achieved success (mostly by working his butt off).
As for instruction, Morrell starts where most how-to books leave off. He begins by asking, “why write?” It’s not an abstract question at all. Clarifying why we’re doing this makes everything else easier. He then takes writers step-by-step through elements of the craft, including plot, character, viewpoint, dialogue, and description. He ends with a firsthand account of selling his novel FIRST BLOOD to Hollywood (which became the move Rambo).
The business side of writing has changed tremendously in the dozen years since LESSONS FROM A LIFETIME OF WRITING was written. So—through no fault of the author—this is the weakest part of the book. Even so, Morrell’s insights into how big publishing works and what to watch for in contracts is still valuable to writers taking that path, and his story of selling Rambo/First Blood was a real eye-opener.
Even though Morrell hasn’t taught in a classroom for many years, he’s still a very good teacher. I’m glad he’s taken his lessons from the classroom to the page, so that anyone can learn what he has to teach.
Rating: 4 stars
Pie slices: 6 slices craft, 2 slices inspiration
This book is best for: beginning writers
I recommend this book.