Books focusing on the craft of writing come a dime a dozen, but How I Write is the real deal.
Janet Evanovich is author of the Stephanie Plum series of mystery novels. Each of the novels in this series have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestseller lists.
My first interaction with her work came through pulling her books during my volunteer shifts at the library. I was later shopping at a used bookstore when I came across How I Write. I’m glad I purchased this book because it’s the most fun I’ve had reading about writing in a long time.
The book is written in a Q&A format. This makes it an easier, more engaging read than similar books of its kind. It’s broken up into nine parts: Creating Great Characters, Nuts And Bolts, Structure, Revising And Editing, Getting Published, Bits And Pieces, The Writing Life, Quick Reference and Author Autobiographies.
While parts 1-3 give you an insight into the mind of a great fiction writer, parts 4-7 contain the real meat and potatoes of the book. This is where you really learn about the work Evanovich puts in on a routine basis to get to where she is at in the literary world.
Evanovich is shockingly candid about her successes and failures. Here are a few of the more interesting bits of information I came across while reading:
She didn’t start writing until she was in her thirties. She didn’t have any skills. She had forgotten how to punctuate a sentence and didn’t have a clue on how to write dialogue. She read, analyzed, attended workshops, studied grammar, and went to the library every week to read Publishers Weekly.
She started out writing short romance novels under the pen name Steffie Hall.
Her first three novels went unpublished. She didn’t sell her first novel until a decade after she started writing.
After finishing a manuscript, she gives it to her son, daughter, and husband for review. She takes their comments and fixes the areas they identify as needing help.
Even after all the success she’s achieved, she still doesn’t feel like she’s made it as a writer.
The most difficult part of being a writer is the fear that she might not meet her readers’ expectations.
She draws inspiration from John Travolta dancing, Eminem videos, jelly donuts and brand-new boxes of Crayola crayons.
Lots of times she isn’t crazy about what she writes, but she keeps moving ahead until it gets better.
I went into this book expecting a light read, but instead came away with a newfound appreciation for Evanovich. She leaves everything on the table in making sure that anyone reading will be well equipped to take on their writing goals. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in writing fiction, but there are enough gems in here that can apply to all writers at any stage of their career.