Non-Fiction Fridays Book Review
So I have a tendency to buy and hoard (fortunately electronic copies of) self-help writing books. A while ago, I had the idea of starting a regular blog column called Non-Fiction Fridays where I'd read and review them, and hopefully garner a collection of the best snippets for my own future reference too. You'll be able to find all these reviews in the Writing Advice Books section under the Reviews tab.
I'm going to start with Andrew Mayne's How To Write A Novella In 24 Hours (And Other Questionable and Possibly Insane Advice On Creativity For Writers). Now, you may have heard of Mayne as a magician-illusionist, but he's also a very successful independently published author of scifi and thriller fiction (the #94 author on all Amazon at the time of writing this post).
HTWANI24H (which is an utterly ridiculous acronym for a book but I couldn't figure out any other way to shorten it) is only 90 pages, which isn't a lot of book for $3.99. It needs to be packed full of some really good information to be good value for money at that price - though it is in the Kindle Unlimited program too.
This book doesn't get into any of the nitty-gritty of writing technique, or any of the details of how to self-publish. If that's the information you're looking for, this isn't the book for you. (Go buy On Writing for the first and Let's Get Digital for the second). What it does is share, in an approachable and friendly way, Mayne's own methods for writing a novella - defined as a 17,500 - 40,000 word work of fiction - in a very short period of time, along with some other helpful tidbits.
This book isn't really for the experienced writer. Mayne's advice is simple and can be boiled down to neat soundbites like "Know what your story is before you sit down to write it", which could lead to a more in-depth discussion about plotting methods but doesn't. Instead Mayne talks about choosing which ideas to work on and sticking with them even if you run out of steam, a classic mistake many aspiring authors make.
Probably my favourite piece of advice in the entire book is one which, as a book critic and reviewer as well as an author, I wish more authors took to heart, and that is Learn to embrace criticism. Ignore reviews at your own peril; they are a major tool to help you improve your skills, especially if you're self-editing. I can't tell you how many authors I've seen get up in arms because a reviewer pointed out a factual inaccuracy or unconscious racism in their work, instead of thanking the reviewer for taking the time to read it and provide valuable feedback.
This is a very approachable read, and probably most helpful for someone who struggles to finish off stories or is suffering from impostor syndrome, considering some of the great examples given in the book. I don't think it's worth $3.99 - I'm pretty sure I bought it during a 99¢ promo - but if you have KU or can pick it up on a promo, it's definitely worth a read. I'm giving it 4 stars mainly because I think he needed to talk more about plotting and fleshing out your plots before you start to write.