Title: The Sarcastic Guide to Writing
Author: Laura Jennings
Published: October 2011
Genre: Nonfiction, Writing Guide
Looking for that spark of inspiration? Dying to know the secrets of what it means to be a successful author? Searching for how to drown the demons of doubt that keep you from putting your soul on paper?
This is not the book for you.
This caustic guide to writing offers a scathing look at why so much bad writing exists. Why the most annoying tropes show up again and again, and how to correct them. Elements of world-building, character, and dialogue are examined, along with tidbits like how to write animals, medieval warfare, and convincing magic. It also includes a special section on how to write fanfiction. Or rather, how not to write it and why doing so is a god-awful waste of your time.
Sectioned off in easy to read list formats, The Sarcastic Guide To Writing offers quick tips on how you’re doing things wrong. Read it, and you will be enlightened. Not necessarily happy, but enlightened. There are other books out there on writing that will hold your hand, but they won’t tell you the truth.
This one does.
If you’re a crybaby, you probably shouldn’t read this one.
When I started reading (or rereading, technically) this book, I wanted to give it a positive review. And then it pissed me off. So let’s talk about why, shall we?
Way back when in the olden days or whenever this was actually the first book on writing that I ever read. That’s why when I returned to it I wanted to enjoy it. I sure remember enjoying it when I was a dumb kid who knew fuck all about writing and was happy to be reading a book about improving the craft that I loved.
For starters, this book does have a lot of useful information. Jennings is a fantasy author with experience. It’s not like she has no idea what she’s talking about. This book is a series of chapters such as “5 Tips on Characterization.” In each chapter, you get five tips on the given topic, from plot, to dialogue, to medieval weaponry and just how it works (this is a fantasy author after all). This book has lots of really great advice on how to improve your story, and your writing on a technical level. It even suggests useful books and websites (some of which are ones I readily recommend myself) and gives you a character chart (RP style) to help you develop your characters! Neat, right?
Now d’you wanna know what made me flip my fucking lid?
I will say that the tone of the book starts to snag after a while. It is a sarcastic guide. And sarcasm is fine. I have a sarcastic and cynical sense of humour. But I’m not actually a sarcastic and cynical person, really. Dealing with this tone (exactly the tone in the above synopsis) was a drag for a whole book. It also made Jennings come off as kind of entitled and superior. Despite telling you to learn that you’re not perfect and your writing sure as hell isn’t, she sure sounded more superior than she was claiming to be.
This book also has numerous typos and proofing errors. I understand that this is is a self-published ebook, but Jennings talks about critiquing and uses the phrase “no excuse” so many times in this book that—oh yeah, no excuse! I saw “ipolar,” for example (in an offensive misuse of the word), and paragraphs splitting in random places. I guess no one proofed it … but for a writing guide that lectured people with a superior attitude about grammar and spelling errors (which would have pissed off my dyslexic sister) it did grate more than it would have in a book that didn’t have a chapter dedicated to grammar.
Oh, and the thing that really got to me.
This book takes one great big slimy shit on fanfiction. And fanfiction writers. This book says that all fanfiction—all of it—is a waste of time. (Makes me wonder why Jennings seems to have spent so much time reading it.) This book says all fanfiction is bad. Adds nothing. Means nothing. It also shits on fanfiction writers, implying that we’re all (yes, I’ve written the odd fanfic in my time) lazy, shitty writers who can only achive Mary Sue-dom. She has it in for fanfiction writers to such a ridiculous degree that she spends a whole chapter rudely saying why fanfiction is a waste of time.
Okay, let me say some fucking things, yeah? Mate? Jennings state that young writers need to be encouraged. And they do! Do you know how many young writers these days start out writing fanfiction? I sure did. The first story I ever wrote was a Doctor Who fanfiction when I was nine. And now I’m doing a creative writing degree. Don’t you dare aggressively shit on something that sparks a love of writing in so many people. And don’t you fucking dare act like it’s all a waste of time and every fanfiction is a poorly written sack of crap. (The book even shits on fanfiction readers. While saying a book doesn’t have to be literary fiction to be worthwhile, it also says you’re wasting your time reading fanfics, while reading fanfics
(The book even shits on fanfiction readers. While saying a book doesn’t have to be literary fiction to be worthwhile, it also says you’re wasting your time reading fanfics, while reading fanfics is what got me out of my reading slump during the worst year of depression in my life.)
The fanfiction community is huge. There are many wonderfully written fanfictions out there penned by very talented writers. Is an artist not talented because they choose to draw Spider-Man? If a writer spends hours writing a story about Harry Potter (while making no money, and not claiming to own Harry Potter or anything) and it gives other people enjoyment, then who are you to shit on them for doing that?
Look, I firmly believe that you should write what you enjoy—for exmample, no “played out” genres, so write about vampires if you want to. And write fanfiction if you want to. The skills can be transferred if you want to write original work later. It went that way for me.
Sorry that this review turned into a rant, but I literally just finished this book and it gave me Feelings. The point is that while you’re welcome to check it out if you think that the good advice will be helpful (and I remember a lot of it being helpful to me when I started out wanting to really work on my writing) but, it’s not without its drawbacks.
But hey, maybe I’m just a crybaby, and it did say it wasn’t for crybabies. But it also said learn to deal with reviews, so I guess to hell with it.
Thanks for reading my ranty review, folks! My social links are in the sidebar ;3