Writing is a particularly elusive art form. There’s a correct way to perform a pas de deux, but is there a correct way to write a book? Even more ineffable is, for most writers, the slippery art of getting the book to the readers once it’s written. What’s the difference between self-publishing, traditional publishing, and e-book publishers? How can you write a great dialogue? Why can switching points of view end either in an enthralling narrative or in a hopscotch mess? Fear not, because Writing Tips for Authors has the answers. This is an anthology of essays, both by Stefan Vučak and six contributor writers, that broaches the most frustrating parts of writing and publishing a book: from outlining a plot to creating multidimensional characters, how to face the dreaded writer’s block, or how to spot sketchy publishers. Mind you, this is not a step-by-step guide nor a “for dummies” kind of book. Vučak doesn’t coddle his readers and focuses more on troubleshooting than on explaining the steps to follow for a successful story. The humorous, sharp wit that dominates the narrative makes this an easy read. My only “complaint” is that most of the jokes are repetitive because the author compiled essays he wrote, apparently, in different moments. Vučak not only approaches common setbacks for authors but also others that are rarely talked about, such as how to deal with “season blues”. Some of the information was new even for me, such as the part on virtual book tours. So don’t think seasoned authors or prolific reviewers can’t learn something from this book.
This anthology dismantles several myths that surround the mystique of writing and writers: for example, the idea of an inspiration-fueled artist who can write the great American novel powered only by caffeine and the muse. Writing is a craft, and Vučak approaches it as such. It also debunks the idea that what makes a book great is entirely subjective. The latter made me feel personally validated because I spent four years in college learning the ins and outs of language and exactly why a book works or doesn’t work. Leaving my personal satisfaction aside, this idea might break a couple of hearts, but it’s incredibly useful. As Mr. Vučak says, and I paraphrase, we don’t need more mediocre authors giving indie literature a bad rap. Speaking of personal satisfaction, kudos to Mr. Vučak for considering writers from different parts of the world. As with most things, most of the information available for writing and publishing is centered on English-speaking writers, more accurately, American ones. But the world is vast and I applaud that the author acknowledges this and talks, for example, about how to file taxes for a book when the author is not a US citizen.
Writing Tips for Authors is also a great guide for book reviewers, such as me. The author seems to think we are “frustrated writers who never got to write anything, and hate writers who managed to produce something on principle.” But most of us are avid readers, who strive to provide constructive criticism and encourage authors and readers alike. However, sometimes we don’t know how to pinpoint what’s wrong with a certain book, especially if most of it seems outstanding. Writing Tips for Authors talks about it all: from stiff dialogue to cardboard characters to lackluster covers.
The author doesn’t beat around the bush, so more sensitive writers who feel they need someone to take their hand and gently guide them through the process should look elsewhere. Other than that, this is a must-read book for authors, book reviewers, publishers, and anyone involved in the writing industry.
This review can also be seen at Books, Reviews, and Everything Written (BREW).