Man vs Bookshelf: Creative Writing

This entry is part 41 of 45 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

I know that sounds like hyperbole. People always say ‘no you haven’t. You used to shit yourself and your mother had to feed you – don’t tell me you wanted to be a writer while that was going on.’

Well, first off, thanks for reminding me there was a time I couldn’t control my bowels long enough to get to the toilet. Those were s horrible ten or fifteen years. Dick.

Second off, you’re wrong.

I have always wanted to be a writer. Always.

I was born with a pen in my hand. A situation which caused serious medical complications and almost cost my mother her life.

By that point, I had already written what would have been a bestseller now, had I been able to bring it with me. I tried, but the doctor said I had to leave my writing pads (AKA my mother’s organs) where they were.

That was the first time I bumped heads with a man who didn’t want me to be a success.

It wouldn’t be the last.

At the time of writing, then, we’re talking twenty-six years of me wanting to be a writer. Across that time I’ve finished few books, but I’ve written millions of words. And more first chapters than The British Library could handle were it to carry only first chapters.

I’ve also read my fair share of books on writing. As well as hundreds or thousands of blogs, white papers and ebooks – of which I base this review around only one.

So, before I get into today’s books, let’s talk about the concept of books on writing as a concept.


Books on Writing and Me

I go back and forth on what I think about books on writing but for the most part, they’re no use.

You can often find their biggest problem by typing the author’s name into Goodreads.

For example, the author of today’s book – Adele Ramet – has written four books, according to Goodreads. They are:

  • Creative Writing: How to unlock your imagination, develop your writing skills – and get published. (This book)
  • Writing for Magazines
  • Writing Short Stories and Articles
  • Creating a Twist in the Tale: Writing Winning Twist Stories for Popular Magazines

Notice something about Adele’s entire body of work?

That’s right. Despite having all the secrets to creating mega-hit fiction, she’s never written any herself.

That’s like reading an academic paper on religious strife during the reign of Henry VIII by someone who’s only knowledge of the period comes from watching hit TV series The Tudors.

It’s something that’s always bugged me about writers of ‘How to Write’ books. They so rarely have written anything successful themselves because, you know, if they had, they wouldn’t need to be writing these books in the first place.

Same thing goes for creative writing teachers.

The only book I’ve ever read on writing by a proper actual author is On Writing by Stephen King. That’s a brilliant book, and one you can believe, cause written by a superstar.

But I won’t say too much about that, as it’s to come on this series.

And I know what you’re thinking.

“But Mark, you’re writing is so bad Scrivener blocked your account and the government tried to impound your laptop. Yet you’ve written self-help blogs in the past. Bloody good ones, too.”

Well first off, thank you for that little compliment at the end. You didn’t have to say that.

Second off, this is the internet. We are all well within our rights to put advice and such out there about topics we know nothing about.

The difference?

I’m not asking you to pay for my advice.

Unless you would pay. Would you pay? Okay, don’t worry. We’ll discuss later.

Next, you’ll ask me why, if I have such negative opinions on the matter, do I have five writing help books on my shelves. Not including On Writing by Stephen King.

Well, we have all been young, and we all make mistakes, don’t we?

In all honesty, I have found some use in these books. But nothing which could trump the mounds of free advice out there, and nothing which could beat the best learning tool you will ever receive.

Writing. Just writing and writing and writing. Finishing what you start and editing it is the best way to improve. Always has been. Always will be.

But, as I say, there is still some important information in those writing about writing stuff.

For example, structure. I happen to believe my own fiction has improved since I learned about the key turning points in the three-act structure. It’s something I try to frame all my works around now and I would be a worse writer if I didn’t know it.

But I read that in a blog. Not a book.


Creative Writing

Now you know how I feel about books on writing you’ll think you know which way this blog is going to go. But don’t assume.

Truth is, while I am beyond sceptical of such books, I went into this one with an open mind. I told myself that maybe Adele couldn’t write best selling novels because that would be selfish. When she had such amazing knowledge to give back on the craft of writing.

It’s like how no one wants to go to Africa to build a well. They do it because they want to give back.

Also. Good publicity.

So I opened this book hoping to glean some useful tips that would help me in my own writing career, and what did I find?

A 1/5.

Maybe my first 1/5.

I’m not sure.

What did I give Silence?

I don’t know but this has to be one of the biggest wastes of time yet on my challenge.

Worse than Silence because at least I could say the themes in Silence weren’t for me.

Books about writing. Yep, writing is my bag. So this should be up there.

Look, this book is in its seventh edition. The copy I have anyway.

That means it went through however many drafts before publishing, and Adele has revised it six times since then.

The author has had seven goes at this book. Seven chances to make it perfect.

And it’s still shit.

So what’s wrong with it?

Top Level

This is the big thing.

I wrote last week about how Will I Manage? Didn’t go into enough detail on anything.

This is even worse.

It was the most basic approach I’ve ever seen to a writing help book. Like, this is the sort of stuff I would tell my five-year-old son if he was interested in writing and if he existed.

Anyone who doesn’t know this stuff can never have picked up a pen, or a read a book. It’s that basic.

Lists. Oh, the Lists

I don’t want to go into too much detail here because the author didn’t bother either.

But one thing which was almost beyond belief were some of the lists included in this book. All the way through are the most unnecessary lists. For example, we are treated to a list of places we might find ideas:

  • Airports
  • Beaches
  • Buses, coaches planes and trains
  • Cafes and restaurants
  • Clubs
  • Doctor’s/ Dentist’s surgeries
  • Hairdressers
  • School playgrounds
  • Shops
  • Stations

Just say everywhere, no?

Later we are treated to a list of traits a ghost might have –

  • Friendly
  • Hostile
  • Sad
  • Happy
  • Mischievous
  • Malevolent
  • Humouress
  • Helpful
  • Obstructive
  • Manipulative
  • Powerful
  • Possessive
  • Terrifying
  • Comforting

Yep – just like that.

There many lists in this book and each one makes me want to cry – because this ‘writer’ has sold more copies than me.

She might even be making a living as a writer.

Oh, God.

I quit.

Sum Up

I think you probably know, don’t you?

I’ve read a fair few helping writer books in my time. Most of them were bad. This was a cut below. Without a doubt the worst book on writing I have ever read.

This may even be the worst book I’ve ever read.

So yeah, pick it up, give it a go.

Just kidding.


Next Time

Okay, it’s back to fiction and something that might make me a little less angry.

Next up it’s Quantum of Solace.

No, not the crappy film.

It’s the entire collection of James Bond Short stories.

See you for that.

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: Will You Manage?Man vs Bookshelf: Quantum of Solace >>
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International worst selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). Recently he is taking the internet by storm with his Man vs Bookshelf Challenge where he aims to read the 210 books on his bookshelf in 210 weeks, reviewing them on his blog and Goodreads along the way. He is also publishing books on Amazon, his most recent being the family suspense novel, Poor Choices, which you can find here.

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