Hot Tips for the Writing Life

by Douglas Wilson
Publisher: Canon Press
1st Edition, ©2011, Publisher Catalog #N-902
Trade Paperback, 128 pages
Price: $14.00

This is a very funny book. Not in the condescending way of most self-help books, but with the real, down to earth, gritty humor Doug Wilson is known for. Maybe it isn't the most important part, but the humor makes Wordsmithy accessible and not just another "blah-blah-blah" manual you won't read.

And if you intend to be a writer (or even fancy that you may want to try), you need to read this book. Wilson offers seven basic principles for writers to live by, expanding on each with the wit and wisdom of a lifetime churning out books, articles, and sermons.

Wilson's insights aren't new: he commands writers to read till their eyes fall out, to love words, to participate in life, etc. These aren't new observations, they're just so freshly presented and explored that anyone who takes writing seriously will be compelled to listen.

Rev. Wilson has established his authority on these matters, too. He's written more books than most people have read, and covered the gamut of genres from poetry and children's novels to theology, history, philosophy and rhetoric. Not all writers will be as prolific, but a humble attention to the wisdom in this book will get you on the road to finishing at least one story.

If learning was always this fun, the world would be full of well-educated people. Since this book exists, writers in particular have no excuse for being uneducated in their craft, or for not acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to write well. All topics are covered: proper grammar, using analogies, producing crummy material, etc.

We don't need a bunch of Wilson clones, but we do need writers willing to take his words to heart and follow his advice. Writing takes work, and if you aren't willing to work you need to find something else to do with yourself. If you are willing, you need Wordsmithy.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
Summary: A funny, pithy guide to the writing life that doesn't coddle its audience or romanticize the art of wordsmithing.

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  Helpful and Inspiring
Miss Pickwickian of NW Oregon, 3/29/2012
Doug Wilson attacks the craft head-on… by addressing the craftsman.

"Wordsmithy" discusses how to be a person with your head on right--how to be a good writer not just good at writing.

The book is divided into seven tips with seven sub-tips, "a veritable Russian doll," as he puts it. From living to reading, from mechanics to language, from lousiness to skill, from sketching to stretching, Wilson moves with light-hearted seriousness from topic to topic while demonstrating his own subject matter.

Each portion has a bolded take-away-point and various recommended books (which I can't wait to attack). It spares no words, but at the same time feels slightly rollicking. Between the style and organization, the book is good for taking notes or glancing to refresh or re-inspire.
Be careful if you're reading in a quiet library. You will inevitably laugh. I had to explain enough chuckles, I ended up reading large portions out-loud.

Wilson gives a strong argument for living like a human and tackling the difficult, and not just the difficult directly related to writing.

In short, "Wordsmithy" makes me want every soul to be a writer so this book can be crammed into our hearts and heads.

Here are few tantalizing tidbits. You need to discover the rest for yourself!

"Real life duties should be preferred over real life tourism. You are learning about the world and the people in it, about whom you will write, and you are learning how to do your job in the service of others, which is what you need to continue to do as you undertake the writing life. Knowledge of how to do your duty in one area transfers readily to another area."

"Live, Ovid said, it is an art to conceal art, and I would add that it is art to half conceal the deep message. True artists know how to do this deftly, and message-mongers do not. But doing it deftly and with wisdom should never be confused with not doing it at all."

This quote is particularly good for me-

"If you enjoy living, you will enjoy writing about it. And if you enjoy writing about it, the chances are greatly increased that the readers will enjoying reading it."

"Love what you observe, love what you write, and love those who read it."