Review: Wrede on Writing by Patricia C. Wrede

Today’s post is sponsored by Grammarly, “an automated online proofreader that finds and explains pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your writing.” I use Grammarly’s grammar check because it catches more errors than MS Word; it ain’t your granma’s grammar check. Wait, make that “it isn’t your grandma’s grammar check.” See how that works?

wredeWrede on Writing

by Patricia C. Wrede

Diversion Books, $4.99 ebook, ISBN-13 9781626812222, December 2013

In another life, I did an extensive amount of creative writing. By another life, I of course mean junior high, as the phrase “another life” currently seems to mean “years ago.” In this other life (which was really the same life I’m living right now), I also discovered one of my favorite authors, Patricia C. Wrede. Wrede is a scifi/fantasy writer best known for her classic children’s series The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Her most recent series was Frontier Magic from Scholastic Press, but most importantly for the purposes of this post, she also maintains a blog about writing. No matter how many critique groups or associations you join, the writing life will always remain a solitary slog. Sometimes I think that’s why I gave it up. Okay, that’s a lie; I gave it up because I had border collies. Ever try going to college, working, having a border collie, and trying to put a novel together? Well, don’t. Your brain will break.

When I still wrote creatively, I occasionally picked up a writing manual, but the genre is extremely hit-or-miss. Sometimes the advice is helpful, sometimes it’s counterproductive. Until you try the suggestions yourself, you can’t necessarily tell whether they’re going to work for you or not. Wrede’s guide succeeds because she constantly goes back to the great truth of writers: many different work styles exist. Her guide is less how to and more what works for you. I don’t mean that she tells the reader to go do whatever they feel and leaves it at that, which would be something of a rip-off. Rather, she talks a great deal about different writing styles and creative processes. She doesn’t lecture on character motivation and traditional plot structure. Instead, she encourages writers to find their own groove, and she offers jumping-points to that end. Her chapters are short, thoughtful, and intended to support individuality. I particularly liked her description of true writer’s block versus not-writing. She contends that true writer’s block comes from an outside force, like a physical injury, mental issue, deep grief–basically the same problems that might interfere with any day-to-day job. However, when most of us claim we have writer’s block, we really mean we’re not in the mood to write, or there’s something else we’d rather do, or we feel stuck and don’t know how to work through a tough spot in the whatever-we’re-writing. Ah! I thought. That’s me! I’ve had friends ask me why I don’t write anymore, and sometimes I say I just have a years-long case of block. Psh. Whatever. I don’t have writer’s block! I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve had pets, jobs, relationships, a social life, school, grocery shopping, book reviewing, hiking, and so many other things I’d rather do than write. Also, I think that voice most writers encounter that says, “You’re not good enough at this to be successful. Look at how many talented authors are already flooding the market, and you’re not even one quarter as good as they are,” is too loud in my head to let me keep trying.

If you’re one of those writers who can get through the not-writing, finish your manuscript, and get it ready for submission, Wrede has valuable advice on the business side of the writer’s life. Royalties, finances, making a living as a writer…I don’t honestly know much about any of that money stuff since I’m not a writer by trade, but she seems to have it all under control.

While seasoned novelists might not find much revelatory information here, budding writers surely will. Additionally, Wrede on Writing would make a great gift for the aspiring writer in your life.

***This honest and non-compensated review refers to an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.