Book Review – Writing Without Rules, Jeffery Somers

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For every writer who agonizes about writing with Word or Scrivener or Novlr, Somers has advice for you: “Good gawd, man. Sit your butt in a chair and write.” I can’t agree more. Well, I can, and paraphrase Schopenhauer when he says that there is no writing worth reading that’s not written in blood. In Writing Without Rules( WWR), Somers strips away rules developed by big business, gatekeepers, and your writing club and gets you putting pen to paper. And FWIW, I’m a Scrivener man.

Gatekeepers and Big Business aren’t all bad, but Somers doesn’t address that. I know that when I pick up a paperback published by Penguin, it will at least be readable and probably enjoyable. For that, they sift through ceiling-high slush piles and cull what doesn’t fit their artistic model, and then edit the daylight out of it. I read a lot of books on Kindle Unlimited and, let me tell you, ‘readable and enjoyable’ doesn’t always hold true on that mostly free venue.

In WWR, Somers mostly skewers the self-imposed rules the writing community shackles itself with, but don’t imagine that following his advice will get you magically published: you still have to write readable prose. The only magic I know of that confers this jelly drop of sunshine is hard work and lots and lots of writing and reading. And coffee.

It’s more than just writing

Being a writer, though, is so much more than just writing, and that’s what Somers addresses. He wants you to move you out of your own way and get you writing. He sifts through the whole shebang of plot, characters, and dialog and ends with lawyers and self-publishing. They all get the same treatment: Go for it. Without being pedantic, Somers’ advice throughout WWR reminds me of the sage advice about my brain from my neuro-shrink: “If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, quit and do something else.”

It’s that easy and that hard.

Who will like it?

My take is that seasoned writers will enjoy the book. If you’ve spent years of your life and thousands of dollars earning your MFA, you might not. He makes light of most sacred cows, and, c’mon, I’ve taken plenty of lit courses and know that sacred cows are, well, sacred. He doesn’t care much about any of them. And he is VERY FOND of bad jokes. Be prepared for both.

I sense that a brand new writer will still struggle with knowing what in the world to do next. But, if you write, and if you struggle with any part of the process, you’ll laugh and get a few pointers. The book is a whole lot more entertaining and has a lot more information than my nutshell but I dish out my summary just the same: have fun, enjoy yourself, loosen your belt, and have at it. Stop when you’re done and watch the game.

Three stars.

Writing Without Rules at Amazon.
Go here to buy the book at Powell’s  in Portland.
And then there’s my hometown bookstore, Barnes and Noble.

Jeff Somers’ website.

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