The Writing Version of the Dry Heaves

So as you know, I’m not generally a fan of how-to writing books. I always make sure to mention my favorites (Pat Walsh’s 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published… and John Dufresne’s The Lie that Tells a Truth definitely deserve a place of honor on your writing shelf next to John Gardner and others) but usually it seems like how-to writing books are too obvious and often too out-dated to help serious aspiring authors.

However, I’m enjoying George Singleton’s Pep Talks, Warnings, and Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers. Singleton is the author of four short story collections (including Why Dogs Chase Cars) the novels Work Shirts for Madmen and Novel. He’s published over 100 short stories in various literary journals and regularly teaches creative writing.

This isn’t so much a how-to book as a series of funny nuggets Singleton has come up with over the course of his career. Here’s an example, although it might very well be one you want to plan your breakfast around reading.:

“If a person wakes up sick to his stomach due to some type of previous overindulgence, he has two options. He can walk around with the dry heaves all day, or he can stick his finger down his throat within the first ten minutes of being awake, clean up the mess, feel better, and move forward in the day.

Dry-heave writing: writing, rewriting, rerewriting, rererewriting a single sentence over and over–one single sentence— for three hours.

Finger-down-throat-writing: writing 1,000 words over three hours, then rewriting it the next day plus another 1,000 new words, on back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back days (See also: shotgun approach.)”

Pep Talks, Warnings, and Screeds also features illustrations by Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish and other work. I’m only about fifty pages into the book and it’s been an enjoyable read so far. Maybe there’s no writing revelations contained in the pages, but the inforamtion is presented in a fun and humorous manner and at least makes an attempt at presenting information in a novel way, as opposed to most of the how-to books out there.

More on this title later… You can also download a sample of the book by following this page.

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