There is no shortage of ‘how to’ books on writing. Some retailers have a specific section in their stores for these kinds of books. So why do we need another? Author J. Michael Straczynski addresses that right at the start, offering what he feels other ‘how to’ writing books neglect to talk about (I’ll let you read up on that).
Straczynski focuses quite a bit on writing from the Hollywood perspective, though he does touch on his experiences in comics and fiction/non-fiction books, as well as his very early days (college). He offers up some of the traps that young (ie inexperienced – not just age) writers often fall into so that the hopeful can be aware of, and hopefully steer clear of such pitfalls, but with sections of the book that discuss the best (and worst) ways to pitch stories to television producers, I think it’s safe to say that a strength of the book is its appeal to television and screen writers.
Although Straczynski has already written a memoir/autobiography with his book Becoming Superman (a book I’m putting on my “Want to Read” list), Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer is as much biography as it is ‘writing help’ book. His helpful hints and tips for writers are almost always followed up with a personal example, giving insight to the writer himself. Sometimes these examples tend to be a bit showy and perhaps not the best examples for beginning writers (an example of this would be a project Straczynski describes as being a special request script for Steven Spielberg – something Spielberg has wanted to write but was getting stuck on. Straczynski was brought in, said he thought he could write the script, but wanted to be left alone, not deliver any outline or explain what he was going to do, but simply hand in his final script when it was done. And because it was Straczynski, Spielberg agreed. How many writers or hopeful writers reading this book would have that kind of pull? [If you want to know the outcome … read the book]).
For years, the advice from writers to hopeful or would-be writers was, “Write. Every day.” Straczynski’s advice, boiled down, is just a little bit different and more in line with what I see in other artist endeavors as well. His advice: Write. And finish what you write.
I can’t say that this book is the most comprehensive ‘how-to’ book that I’ve ever seen, but I do think it is quite entertaining. The biographical portions actually make this quite fascinating (particularly if you are familiar with the authors work [and if you aren’t you probably wouldn’t pick this up in the first place]) – such as: why is one episode of Babylon 5 from a very different perspective?
I’d recommend this to would-be writers, as well as fans of Stryczynski’s work (and they are many, given his work in both comics and television).
Looking for a good book? Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer by J. Michael Straczynski is part biography, part writing ‘how-to’, and 100% entertaining.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer: The Artistry, Joy, and Career of Storytelling
author: J. Michael Straczynski
publisher: BenBella Books
paperback, 288 pages