There seems to be endless how-to essays and books on writing. I’ve read a handful and numerous blog posts, much of the time these read like reheated supper. This had some reheated supper, sure, but, like lasagna, sometimes the re-issuing of a dish has more impact than the first run.
From the initial book of this omnibus –and by far the strongest and most generally insightful portion– it proves a valuable expenditure of time. Often, horror related essays on writing touchback to a particularly revealing and helpful memoir by Stephen King, aptly titled On Writing. The technical side of it anyway. The authors of this collection also make notes and direct quotes themselves, but it did not feel like regurgitation. There was application to it.
What the first book of this omnibus excels at above the others is entertainment. It is one thing to write a operation/repair manual, it is another to ensure that thing holds the attention of the reader. Holding attention is the only way to convey a message.
The second book of the omnibus loses some of the momentum with a pair of essays seemingly written by authors wanting nothing more than to shower themselves in praise and shill copies of their works –see what I did here, and here, oh and what about how awesome I did it there? This noted, most were fine and a few were stronger than that.
The third book shifts to an all-new tone, clear and narrow, the essays cast light over the intention and in the case of one essay, Hal Bodner’s Creating Effective Characters, entertainment, information and accessible placement of information roll together wonderfully. The third is also where the collections break away from honing skills on paper to focus on skills aside from writing, something that comes up –in useful and realistic terms– far less often.
The fourth focusses on many of the lesser discussed items. It is more in-depth than the previous in a particularly technical standpoint. Subjects of less glamor than characters and setting, but no less important, receive the full objective treatment.
Overall, I was impressed and in the case of a handful I felt veils lifting behind questions I hadn’t known I had, which is truly helpful –imagine if you read the frequent screw-ups by other weekend carpenters before trying buying the tools and supplies to into a deck on the back of your house and had the chance to apply their knowledge, you might have a deck you could stand on!
As a collective –beside the self-aggrandizing bits– Writers on Writing is a wealth of knowledge presented in a readable package, and made interesting by a horror leaning and the sensibility to know reader still needs a little something-something more than blueprints and checklists. Definitely of more value than the price tag and in some cases, one of few truly honest sources of information when it comes to the indie horror world.