Book Reviews Writing

The Kick-Ass Writer: A Review and Some Takeaways

“Writing is the act of creation. Put words on a page, words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs, paragraphs to seven-book epic fantasy cycles with books so heavy you could choke a hippo. But don’t give writing too much power, either. A wizard controls his magic; it doesn’t control him.”

Chuck Wendig’s The Kick-Ass Writer is a writing resource that is simply not receiving the amount of attention it deserves. Broken up into chapters, each containing 25 points regarding separate aspects of novel writing, Wendig covers everything from starting your story to publishing it. And he makes you laugh (and feel totally inferior because he’s an amazing writer) in the process of reading it. It’s fantastic.

Wendig’s voice certainly makes this more bearable than other writing advice books. He knows how to weave perverted and ridiculous humor into his nonfiction, a skill that more writers should strive to develop. I will say, this isn’t for the easily offended. He can be quite explicit in his humor.

The Kick-Ass Writer also stands out from so many other writing books because it offers useful pointers on writing settings, characters, plots, themes…and it also advises you on the best ways to publish. This isn’t one of those texts that’s going to repeatedly preach “just begin! just do it!” and nothing else. Wendig hands you the tools and processes necessary to finish a novel. I do wish he delved into further detail with some of his tips, but that’s the only complaint I can think of.

I gave this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I loved it, and I plan to go back and utilize some of the methods Wendig reviews here. So now I’m going to jump from book review into writing post and share some of my takeaways from this. I’ll try not to spoil too much, so you guys can go experience this for yourselves.

Experiment with outlining.

I never outline, which in itself is semi-problematic. But whenever I picture an outline, it looks something like a list of “and then and then and then.” You can imagine my surprise at discovering that there are multiple ways to outline stories, from using index cards to white boards and everything in between. I intend to try some of these out and determine which methods work for my writing.

Write to fit the three-act structure.

Most stories inevitably fall into a three-act structure, but Wendig focuses on using the structural components of storytelling to create the story. I’m the type of person who gets lost after a few chapters, so outlining and adhering to a certain formation helps me stay focused on making a plot. This may not work for everyone, but it’s definitely proven useful for my own fiction.

Figure out your ending first.

Similar to writing to a structure, it can be incredibly helpful to write toward an ending. If you have a destination, you won’t run off on 200 page tangents that you’ll have to cut during the editing process. Knowing where you’re going will keep you on track, especially while you’re writing the dreaded middle portion of your book.

Use your own experiences when describing settings.

Does anyone else have difficulty with setting? What do you include and what do you chop? Wendig zones in on what should and shouldn’t pop up in your descriptions of setting. Mostly, if a minute detail is mentioned, it should probably play into the outcome of the story. And as far as general background description, writing exercises can help. Wendig suggests jotting down your immediate reactions to places. This will demonstrate what you notice about a place at first sight, and it’ll help you determine what your characters should be noticing as well.

Become a hybrid author.

There are too many advisers advocating passionately for either traditional publishing or self publishing. Often, there’s no middle ground. But Wendig’s approach favors both, as he suggests that you’ll be able to make a career out of writing more quickly if you choose certain novels to self publish and certain ones to take the traditional route with. I have to say, it’s a sensible argument.

There are so many more lessons to take from The Kick-Ass Writer, but those were my main takeaways. I can’t describe how useful this book is, even when it’s stating things that might seem obvious in hindsight. I highly, highly recommend picking it up!

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