Pros: Fun to read; both encouraging and practical
Cons: Narrow audience
Rating: 5 out of 5
I just know this is one of those books experienced writers would pick up and scoff at—“it’s just the basics” or “this is soft stuff, not practical how-to”—so let me get the audience concerns out of the way first. Dara Girard’s The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life is aimed at folks who are having trouble gaining entry into the writing life. It’s aimed at people who are angry or depressed, who feel that they’ll never make it because they aren’t good enough, or editors are stupid and can’t recognize their genius, or the market doesn’t appreciate what they have to offer. It isn’t meant for folks who are cruising along just fine on their own.
For that intended audience it has a wealth of information, suggestions, tips, and advice. Advice is offered in straightforward, relatively brief chapters and sections, so you can easily find what you need and get to the heart of the matter, whether that matter is handling bad reviews of your work or learning not to compare yourself to other writers. That advice comes in a wonderful blend of the uplifting and spiritual, and the blunt and concrete. I often find that books lean a little too hard toward one end or the other, and I enjoyed Ms. Girard’s balance of the two.
If you were a new doctor, no one would expect you to become an internationally known specialist after a year of practice. But publish one book, and people will ask you why you didn’t make The New York Times Bestseller List, sell movie rights, or get a $100,000 advance like the teenager they read about. Ignore them.
Added to that is the fact that there are wonderful quotes and delightful turns of phrase sprinkled throughout; I laughed several times when reading this, and had to read a few bits out loud to my husband because they tickled me.
Comparison is as useful an activity as pulling out your own teeth. It’s painful and you’ll look bad.
If you aren’t sure what it means to you to be a writer, if you get discouraged after a single rejection letter, if your envy of other writers keeps you from making your own progress, then this book is a great kick in the pants. It’ll warm the parts of you that need warming, encourage the parts that need encouraging, and yet still tell you the hard truths you need to hear—as well as what to do with them.