The Kick-Ass Writer is Chuck Wendig’s guide to writing. Composed of a series of listicles, Wendig explains everything from story structure to the publication process.
Title: The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, & Earn Your Audience
Author: Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
- Entertainment value: medium
- Usefulness: medium
- Recommended if you:
- have enjoyed Chuck Wendig’s other writing
- want quick, easy to read writing advice
- appreciate irreverence and humour
Wendig fills his advice with humour and writes in a conversational tone that is easy and fun to follow. While the listicle format is a novel and make this book far from a dry read, which I’m sure anyone familiar with other writing manuals will appreciate.
There are a ton of different subjects included in this book. Wendig covers fundamentals, elements of craft, and the publishing business itself.
I think the last section is particularly helpful for modern writers. He talks agents and querying, discusses social media and blogging, and compares traditional and self-publishing. Basically, he gives an overview—albeit a brief one—of everything one should learn about going into the writing business.
While the listicle structure makes all the information easy to understand and the book easy to pick up and consume in short chunks, it is limiting. The format prevents going too in-depth on any particular subject and sometimes leaves you wanting more. But the points do build on one another, and at the very least, give readers a starting point for further research.
Lessons from The Kick-Ass Writer
Aim for B+
In a chapter on “things you should know about being a writer,” Wendig says that “writing is rewriting.” This is a common view. But he goes on to talk about knowing when to put down the pen or step away from the keyboard. He suggests giving up on perfect (because “you don’t know shit about perfect”) and aiming for B+ instead. He says to let others help get you to A. I always like reminders that we don’t have to be perfect, and Wendig combines this reminder with an acknowledgement of the work of editors, which I also appreciate.
You Don’t Have To Take a Single Path
We often discuss traditional vs indie authors, but there’s another option: the hybrid author. According to Wendig, “the hybrid author embraces many (or all) forms, modes, and mechanisms of publishing.” Too often, I think we’re sold the either/or approach, so it is nice to see someone in the industry argue that writers don’t necessarily have to choose.
Understand Plot, Story, and Theme
Wendig breaks down the difference between these three words. Plot is the sequence of events. Story is what you’re writing about. And theme is the argument your story is making. No, these aren’t groundbreaking distinctions, but by separating these three and expanding on them, Wendig makes you consider each independently. This can be helpful when planning your writing.
Writers need to be readers. You probably already know this. However, Wendig reminds us that we need to not only read but to read widely. It’s important to read outside the genres you enjoy or write in. Wendig even argues to read and consume media beyond books. Read books, yes. But also read scripts and watch television and film. To use Wendig’s words, “don’t be a book racist.”
Is there a writing book you’d like me to review? Let me know in the comments.