If You Want To Write Gooder, Read This Book

Not bad.
Not bad.

I think I’ve read enough books on writing that they’re all beginning to overlap and become rehashes of one another—each saying essentially the same thing, merely in that author’s style (so it must be true). John’s book is no different in that respect, but I really liked the way he said it. I liked his voice, and if there’s one thing the reader can take away from How to Write Good, it’s how to discover and develop one’s voice.

There are many more things to take away than that, though, making it well worth the investment. Besides, repetition is a good teacher.

Reading John’s contribution was like sitting down in his living room over a beer with a game on in the background (it doesn’t matter who’s playing), and talking shop. I breezed through it in about an hour. Very relaxed and easy to understand. It’s a perfect book for the beginner, which is exactly the person for whom it was written. Some books are too complicated—too much writerspeak—and seem to feed the author’s ego rather than allow for the reader’s ease of understanding (“serve the work, not the ego”).

Yes, I’m a beginner…but not a total newbie. I do always like to approach a new how-to as if I were, though. Once a person thinks they’re the master, they’ve become unteachable. So I read with an open-mind.

This was an instance where I wished I had the hard copy of the book instead of the e-book, though. I don’t know how to highlight or take notes on the page or use the Kindle to my best advantage yet, and I desperately wanted to flip back through the pages to review some of his suggestions.

John writes the way I write…or would write if I listened to his advice, which I will. My voice is very similar to his (even down to the word fruck), but I am probably the world’s slowest writer. I thought last November’s NaNo would have broken me of that, but I still crawl through each sentence, and his suggestion of letting whimsy rule the page is perfect for me. Even this post has already seen many edits and deletions. I have to get over that. Choice is made. Don’t second guess. Move on.

He has a few other solid one-liners in his ditty bag, which may seem simple but speak volumes. Write bad. Fail on the page. There are no wrong choices. Whimsy lets you try things out. Judgement lets you make stuff go away.

Although there are many books on the craft that are more “instructional” or tap into the writer’s spiritual side and get all “if I’m not writing, I’m not breathing,” this was perfect for the “blue-collar” writer. Don’t be highfalutin. Write. Have an active practice. Write bad if you must. Whimsy says so. Judgement can fix it up later.

Keep giving them YOU until YOU is what they want.

I think I’ll spend the $6.00 and get the hard copy, just for the ease of reference. I’m old-school that way. It wasn’t “the book that changed my life,” but it did have too many great points that have already flown out of my head, which I want to highlight in yellow or blue and stick little stickies on my favorite pages.

I highly recommend this for the new writer…or the writer who is stuck…or the writer who has become too full-of-himself and needs to keep it green. It’s good that way, and will show you how to write even gooder.

Our next book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, is one of those more spiritual writer’s guides that I made reference to above. It promises to be very enlightening, and in looking over it, is designed to be a 12-week program.

So that’s how we’ll approach that book…over the course of twelve weeks. Weeks 1-4 will be June’s contribution, 5-8 will be July’s, and 9-12, August’s. I’ll look through it more closely to determine how this will best fit our book club and make a more detailed post. Thanks to all of you who signed up, and the list is still open for those who want to be a part of it.

And congratulations once again to our giveaway winners, Al Diaz and Lexie Cobain!


ML Swift


PBC (2) 150x225This post is part of the monthly discussion of The Progressive Book Club. For more information, follow the link to the guidelines above. We meet the third Wednesday of each month and discuss a selected book on the craft of writing. Join in on the titles you like, pass on those you don’t. It’s that simple. We’d love to have you!

For a list of this month’s participants, click on the frog below and see what the others had to say about How to Write Good.

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32 thoughts on “If You Want To Write Gooder, Read This Book

  1. Fantastic review. Like you, I like a good how-to every now and again. (Unlike you, yeesh, I really need the refreshers on my skills!) It sounds like an easy read too. I eat up all those more touchy-feely type books, but sometimes I need a book that rolls its eyes at all that and says, “Sit down and just write, for heaven’s sake.” I may have to add this one to my to-read. Thanks!

    1. I love the touch-feely ones, too, but every now and then it’s good to grab hold of one that’s pure cotton candy (with nutritional supplements).

      I highly recommend this. And you’ll fly through it.

  2. Swift! Seems like it’s been too long! (My bad!) I love craft books. Love them. And I haven’t read this! But I love your thoughts here–now I want to read it!

    1. It has been too long (just as much my bad). I went over to your site the other day, but you were still milking that birthday post. I’ll be over soon! Good to see you!

  3. I want to read this now! I’ll get the paperback, though. Like you, I read all my fiction on Kindle but reference books have to be hardcopies for me. Highlighting, flipping back and forth – that’s all a challenge on a Kindle.

    So I’m way behind your recommendations but I’m now reading Save the Cat. 🙂

  4. I really appreciated his brevity–a would-be writer can so easily spend years reading about the craft of writing, about the writer’s life, etc. I know. I’ve been there. Vorhaus gave us 101 pages of really direct pep-talk. Plus the best advice ever: Procrastinate later.

  5. I think I might be as slow writer as you are, Mike. Just not as devoted nor half as determined as you are. I honestly admire you are always striving to get better and the depth of your thoughts. I’ll try to follow your example and make the best of The Artist’s Way.

    1. Al…I wouldn’t say that you’re not as devoted or determined—from my perspective, you’re pretty damn busy doing all the things a new writer needs to do.

      If we’re not growing (both in the craft and at a personal level), then we’re dead. Think about it. A person grows their entire life. As kids, we grow UP. As adults, we grow WIDE. As writers, we grow DEEP.

      When the growth stops, we should be in a casket.

      I’m so happy that you won the giveaway. I really wanted you to be a part of the next book study. Thanks.

  6. I think if it was the first book I had read on writing, it would have been a good starting point. As a book for beginner, I can see it. I picked up on some tips that I needed reiterated, so it was perfect for that as well.
    BTW, great idea about the Artist’s Way, I just picked it up and really want to do it justice but would have been overwhelmed trying to devour it in one month.

    1. Yeah, it is a perfect book for the beginner. But also for those who have been around for a bit. Great insight and refreshing ways to look at things like writer’s block, fear, active practice, etc.

      The Artist’s Way looks deep. The only way to do it justice was to follow the book as designed. I’ve got the workbook, and will refer to that when planning out the book.

      1. I was thinking of sitting the next one out, but if it’s going to be three months, I may have to look again. And so far all your choices have been worth the time.

      2. GOOD! I was hoping that you’d participate. I think by taking it over the course of three months will make it a lot less daunting.

        And thanks about letting me know about the choices made. I’ve liked them, too. 🙂

  7. Wow, my ears were burning! Hey all, John Vorhaus here, just dropping by to say thanks for all the kind words. I hope I can help you all write gooder and goodier and goodestest. -jv

    1. John,

      Thanks for swinging by my humble hideaway! I hope I did your book justice; it seemed to spark some interest.

      It was a super book! Full of insight and very easy to grasp. Not highfalutin at all. It will definitely come in handy to help overcome my snail-paced writing. That’s my biggest obstacle: the self-editing during the process…so hard to leave behind.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

    1. It’s worth the money, Lyn. Very much a back to basics read, simple, yet full of helpful tidbits.

      Yes…It’s not bad to write bad to write good.

    1. It’s an inexpensive book and a good resource, seriously worth the price. Someone else called it a good pep-talk, and that’s about right. A pep-talk, with the beer and the game in the background, and burgers cooking on the grill.

  8. I agree, this is a great book for someone who is new or even moderately green. It was a great book for me and like you, I think I may have to get a hard copy so I can highlight and flip through to spot parts I want to read again. Ebooks drive me crazy when I want to mark up the text with my own thoughts.

    I’m really glad to have won the book for the next months because I will definitely want to mark it, cross-reference it and make it my own! Thanks again 🙂

    Oh, very cool, I love Third Day!! Been listening as I was reading your post and the comments! 🙂

    1. First off…isn’t Third Day such a good group? And thanks for telling me that you listened to it. I’ve wondered if anybody did.

      Yeah…gonna get the hard copy so I can read through it again and make some notes. I’ve learned with this book to get my how-to’s in hard copy and fiction in ebook. Unless the ebook is free or too cheap to pass on.

      I’m looking forward to The Artist’s Way and am so glad you won, too. Mine’s going to be highlighted, written on, tabbed, dogeared, and look totally old and worn by the time I’m done!

      Thanks, Lexie!

  9. Is it Wednesday yet? Oops!

    Agree completely this book is ideal for newbies and I wish I’d come across it back then. I was surprised however, to still get a lot from it. I do like your focus and think I shall take it on now when my kids come to the age where they need dating advice:
    ‘Keep giving them YOU until YOU is what they want’
    What? It’s better than what I already had – ‘If you can’t be free, at least be cheap.’

    1. Wednesday? Is it 2013 already? Did the world fall apart at Y2K? Where am I? Who am I?

      Ha! This PBC meeting came early! It sneaked up on me, too.

      Your dating advice should be mandatory learning in schools. 🙂

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