This book is a collection of John Scalzi’s blog posts on the writing life up to about 2006. It’s not a writing guide, per se, nor does Scalzi market it as one. Instead, it’s an insight into what made Scalzi a successful writer by explaining how he built and maintained a career. Your mileage will vary. Some of what worked for Scalzi as he was coming up simply no longer exists: AOL, for instance. To use this book as a life guide, you have to recognize the generalities of his experience, not the specifics.
Note that I said Scalzi’s career as a writer, not as a novelist or even a fiction writer. For at least a couple of decades, he wrote for newspapers, online (AOL), or for corporations, only doing fiction in between those much more lucrative writing assignments. He was also an early blogger who built a sizable following long before he started to publish fiction.
As someone who only recently began to earn my salary from writing alone (I have a long-term contract to do just that for a non-profit organization), I understood exactly what Scalzi means when he writes about how the process of writing daily, even nonfiction, helps your fiction process. Since I started this gig, I’ve been more interested in my own writing, writing more for myself in the last couple of years than I had in the ten before it, as well as how having this daily writing job has helped to build confidence in my writing abilities.
I also enjoyed Scalzi’s comment on how he sometimes takes extremely long showers, resolving issues with his writing as the water cascades over his body. Beau there, doing that regularly. It’s amazing how a hot slower can release the imagination.
While I still haven’t read any of Scalzi’s fiction, I do enjoy his blogging and his desire to puncture the mystique around what it takes to be a successful writer. I probably needed this more a few decades ago, but I still enjoyed reading this today.
[Finished 6 July 2018]