Reviewed by Ekta R. Garg
December 23, 2015
A vocal writer in the community, Chuck Wendig has offered his opinions on a variety of topics for several years now and done it with his trademark style of flippant commentary. I’ve read several articles by Wendig, and while some of his observations made me smile in their humor I have to admit that the excessive use of profanity and less-than-tasteful imagery have made my forehead furrow more than once.
What can I say, I like my writing—and reading—mostly clean.
Still, when I saw this book in the library by Wendig, it caught my eye (title notwithstanding.) A thousand and one ways? Really? Can a person even fit that many tips into a book that’s only 281 pages long?
Short answer: yes.
When I do these reviews for books on the Workshop Reading List, I often include excerpts or quotes from the book to share with readers some of the gems of wisdom the authors offer. I decided not to do that here only because every single chapter includes 25 tips and every chapter focuses on a different topic: plot; character; setting; theme; and several others. It’s hard to cull 25 short tips into quotable bites.
There’s also the small problem of Wendig’s writing style itself.
In several places it feels like Wendig wants to distract the reader from his writing advice (which hits the mark every time) with his comments, often profane and sexual in nature. Again, some of these comments might induce a smile in readers. Others come across as flat out juvenile. If Wendig didn’t have the advice to back up the inanity, readers might be willing to dump the book quick.
He does have the advice, though, and much of it is solid and founded in the most sound principles of writing. In some places Wendig actually shows quite a bit of restraint in his writing. Clearly either he or his editor(s) felt that the shenanigans had hit a threshold and needed to be brought back down from it.
I’m not completely sure I would recommend Wendig’s book for the sole reason that the profanity and overt sexual references can be a little distracting at times. Can the book be entertaining from time to time? Sure. But as a book on craft, I want something that will draw me deeper into my writing self and force me to think long and hard about how to become a better writer. Wendig’s book often distracts me to the point where I start to fidget and wait for the next little gem of advice.
Writers who enjoy his work may like this book, though, and for that audience the book is a surefire way to get better in the art. As for the rest of us who prefer a more sober approach, maybe this isn’t the right book for us. Even if it can make a person giggle occasionally.