Book review: How To Write Good by John Vorhaus


the cover of the book

I was going to have a little lie on the couch and watch some tv before I wrote this book review, but then I remembered about procrastinating later, which was just one of the excellent slogans presented in this fantastic little guide to writers. And so here we are.

The content

How To Write Good is divided into eight sections, namely: the introduction, which is entitled 'how to write good', and introduces the subject matter. It is the larges section, and does an excellent job of easing the reader into the idea of writing. 'The wonderful world of pivots' provides the basic building blocks for a storyline, and suggests some ways to come up with 'pivots'. 'What to do about writer's block' is pretty much exactly what it describes, but Vorhaus gives some very specific advice on how to get combat the greatest fear of most writers. 'The practice of practice' talks about the most important part of the practice... practising!

'Have a theme' deals with how to find your themes and how to use them. 'Indy pub' is a crash course in the new world publishing order; because vanity publishing isn't all there is to self publishing any more! Then comes the section entitled 'Nun swipes $128,000, gambles it away', which sounds weird, but it'll be fine when you get there. Finally, section eight is 'space and time', and talks about practical bits and pieces to do with writing practice.

The style

It's a snazzy little hundred pager on the kindle, so it's quick while being informative. I guess the thing is, I'm not at the stage John Vorhaus describes as his target audience. I am not just starting out my writing practice, and requiring encouragement in my early twenties. But you know what? This book really resounded with me. Firstly, it gave me a sense of encouragement to keep writing, because it's all about practice. Practice, practice, and more practice! I am not the kind of person who sticks with stuff. I gave up five or so musical instruments, never bothered with sport, and have had my oil paints on top of the shelf for three months, unused. And when I was twenty I used to say to myself, no point trying to write anything now, I'm just not life-experienced enough. What a waste of time. But it WOULDN'T have been a waste of time, because as John Vorhaus explains, practice WILL make you better. Imagine how good I'd be if I'd been writing for ten years! So much better than I am now!

So after punching this fact home, John Vorhaus then makes practical suggestions about getting it done. And they're good, solid suggestions, and what I enjoy about them the most is the style in which they are written. The whole piece is a metalogue, and it's like John Vorhaus and I are friends now, because he just sat me down and talked to me in a stream of consciousness style way about my writing habits. I mean, I realise that actually, How To Write Good would have been edited and read over and re-written and all the other things that happen to books, but this just feels like a spontaneous, impromptu chat. And it's nice, and it's fun, and it's easy to read, and I'm going to write more often, now, because of it.

I admit also that I found the section on Indy Publishing very interesting, having had exactly the same feeling about vanity publishers as John Vorhaus, but he managed to present the new wave of e publishing in a way that felt accessible and not too scary. Which, for an information-age immigrant like myself, is a big deal.

Basically, I feel encouraged to write more. So excuse me, I'm just going to change documents and get creative.

Who is this book for?

Aspiring writers, people who currently consider themselves writers. People who think they might like to be writers but don't know where to start. I write a LOT, and I liked How To Write Good not only because I would have liked it BEFORE I wrote a lot, but also because I can nod sagely while I read it and think to myself righteously, “yes, that's what I do!” so I feel like I'm on the right track.

If you want to do something with words, read it!

If you like this book, you would also like...

I rarely read non fiction or self-helpish type books so I don't know, but a lot of my friends with the same interests as me swear by Steven King's stuff on writing. I'm open to suggestions.

Also, John Vorhaus has written other books, some of them also about writing! I can't vouch for them specifically, but hey, if he wrote this one they must be worth a squiz.



In short

Title: How To Write Good
Author: John Vorhaus
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1482554731
Year published: 2013
Pages: 102
Genre(s): Non-ficton, Self help manual