I picked this book of short essays (tips) on writing in a thrift store because the price was right, but I knew I’d enjoy it when the very first rule was “Burn your Journal.” Though plenty of writers I know find journals helpful, I’ve never been able to keep one, being too busy writing stories I might want to read again later.
Apart from the journal rule, there wasn’t much in Masello’s list of pithy hints that I hadn’t heard already (often multiple times), but there were lots of good reminders–make heroes fallible and give villains good points; polish writing up, but don’t hang onto it forever . . .. There was also the occasional gem I hadn’t heard before, but thought might be worth a try (don’t be afraid to try a new genre or length–mixing it up can improve writing overall, and may lead to a new strength).
At any rate, as a book on writing, this one struck me as more helpful than most. Maybe all that means is that my writing process approximates Robert Masello’s more than it approximates Stephen King’s or Annie Dillard’s (or the processes of several other writers whose names I cannot now remember). Or maybe it means Mr. Masello has better or more accessible advice. At any rate, I think I’ll hang onto this book for a while. I find it useful to occasionally remind myself of writing best practices (or at least, best practices for me).