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You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing

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Coffee Shop shows the writing life as it is, from the perspective of novelist and writer John Scalzi, who in 15 years as a professional writer has written just about everything: critically acclaimed novels, best-selling humor books, nationally syndicated newspaper columns, magazine cover stories... and ad copy, corporate brochures and Web site headlines, too. His wide rang Coffee Shop shows the writing life as it is, from the perspective of novelist and writer John Scalzi, who in 15 years as a professional writer has written just about everything: critically acclaimed novels, best-selling humor books, nationally syndicated newspaper columns, magazine cover stories... and ad copy, corporate brochures and Web site headlines, too. His wide range of experience informs this collection of essays on writing and the writing life, taken from his popular personal Web site, The Whatever. Whether providing practical advice, discussing writing and writers or observing the state of the writing world, Scalzi lays it out in a sharp, no-nonsense way that assumes you want the lay of the land, without all the huggy-squeezy hand-holding. Notes on the writing life, unvarnished views of writers and books and (yes) even some practical advice: It's all here.


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Coffee Shop shows the writing life as it is, from the perspective of novelist and writer John Scalzi, who in 15 years as a professional writer has written just about everything: critically acclaimed novels, best-selling humor books, nationally syndicated newspaper columns, magazine cover stories... and ad copy, corporate brochures and Web site headlines, too. His wide rang Coffee Shop shows the writing life as it is, from the perspective of novelist and writer John Scalzi, who in 15 years as a professional writer has written just about everything: critically acclaimed novels, best-selling humor books, nationally syndicated newspaper columns, magazine cover stories... and ad copy, corporate brochures and Web site headlines, too. His wide range of experience informs this collection of essays on writing and the writing life, taken from his popular personal Web site, The Whatever. Whether providing practical advice, discussing writing and writers or observing the state of the writing world, Scalzi lays it out in a sharp, no-nonsense way that assumes you want the lay of the land, without all the huggy-squeezy hand-holding. Notes on the writing life, unvarnished views of writers and books and (yes) even some practical advice: It's all here.

30 review for You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Arun Divakar

    If there is one thing that John Scalzi does not try to be, it is in appearing to be nice about the whole writing thing. His blog posts are ones that shoot straight from the hip with zero afterthought as to the ricochet and it is almost completely no-nonsense. Scalzi offers his thoughts on writing, publishing and editing in a way that does not pamper his reading audience. While Stephen King was all refined in his book, Scalzi offers practical advice on what it means to be a writer. He discards an If there is one thing that John Scalzi does not try to be, it is in appearing to be nice about the whole writing thing. His blog posts are ones that shoot straight from the hip with zero afterthought as to the ricochet and it is almost completely no-nonsense. Scalzi offers his thoughts on writing, publishing and editing in a way that does not pamper his reading audience. While Stephen King was all refined in his book, Scalzi offers practical advice on what it means to be a writer. He discards any notion of treating writing as a bed of roses and talks about his life as a writer as an example. If you are looking for a nuts and bolts approach to writing then there is a lot to be found here in that department, but if one were to boil down all of Scalzi’s advice then it would be these : • Write, write and write as much as you can and as if your life (literally) depended on it & • Treat this as a serious occupation, just like any other profession Scalzi has had a combination of hard work, luck and right circumstances that helped him slowly climb the rungs into his current position. He is fully cognizant of the fact that this might not be the case for a lot of others. He makes it clear though that there needs to be a lot of work to be done to become a competent (although not a good author…this category falls into a different bucket altogether) author. Barring a few of the authors who have the muse’s hand on their shoulder, the others really have to sweat blood to come up with books that sell and ideas that resonate with the readers. When one is competing with such professionals, it really wouldn’t do you any good to be a lazy and laid back bum. The articles are more of an exhortation to get off your posterior and get to work if you have even remote hopes of becoming a published author. The first two chapters of the book are blog posts that lay it thick on the writing life. The third and fourth chapters does not feel as if they gel into the book. They are the ones that collect Scalzi’s feedbacks and opinions on occurrences as early as 2005 and 2006. Considering that a decade has passed already, these thoughts on the SF world and its nuances does not really connect well with me. They were more like afterthoughts from the publisher’s end to bring up the page count or something on those lines. For a book that speaks volumes on being relevant, this was totally the opposite. The first two chapters make the book worth your time. If you are planning to pursue writing as a career or a serious vocation, it would be good to hear Scalzi’s take on it too.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jason Hough

    Refreshingly honest articles (some may call arrogant, and John would probably agree), all pulled from his blog, on his career as a writer. Not many tips on the writing process, but plenty on the business of writing (he even tells you how much money he makes, and where the money comes from). I did have an awkward moment - in one chapter, he quotes a rant on the publishing business that was written by a good friend of mine, and then proceeds to destroy his arguments. I wasn't sure who to root for.. Refreshingly honest articles (some may call arrogant, and John would probably agree), all pulled from his blog, on his career as a writer. Not many tips on the writing process, but plenty on the business of writing (he even tells you how much money he makes, and where the money comes from). I did have an awkward moment - in one chapter, he quotes a rant on the publishing business that was written by a good friend of mine, and then proceeds to destroy his arguments. I wasn't sure who to root for... This is nice to have in book form, but the truth of the matter is that there's nothing in this you cant find on his blog, so I docked a star from my rating.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    The four stars apply to the first two (of four) chapters of Scalzi's book on writing. He has a clear and refreshingly practical take on professional writing, and any aspiring writer (or anyone aspiring to make a living publishing anything, really) could learn something from what he has to say. The last two chapters aren't focused as much on craft or business and are therefore not nearly as useful. But they're classic Scalzi, and if you're interested in his opinion on writers and writing and sci- The four stars apply to the first two (of four) chapters of Scalzi's book on writing. He has a clear and refreshingly practical take on professional writing, and any aspiring writer (or anyone aspiring to make a living publishing anything, really) could learn something from what he has to say. The last two chapters aren't focused as much on craft or business and are therefore not nearly as useful. But they're classic Scalzi, and if you're interested in his opinion on writers and writing and sci-fi, they're an okay read. But really, read the first two chapters then just subscribe to his blog.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    How you rate this book, I think, depends primarily on what you expected when you sat down to read it. Lets clear up all confusion by starting off with what it -isn't-. This book is not: - A how-to guide on the nuts and bolts of writing. - A how-to guide on getting published. - A how-to guide on growing potatoes. - A how-to guide. - New. This last I think is particularly important to understand, Scalzi maintains a very popular blog that I myself have read daily for several years now where he covers topi How you rate this book, I think, depends primarily on what you expected when you sat down to read it. Lets clear up all confusion by starting off with what it -isn't-. This book is not: - A how-to guide on the nuts and bolts of writing. - A how-to guide on getting published. - A how-to guide on growing potatoes. - A how-to guide. - New. This last I think is particularly important to understand, Scalzi maintains a very popular blog that I myself have read daily for several years now where he covers topics ranging from his own work and the work of his friends to the politics of the day. It is well written, broad of topic and always entertaining. (He once taped bacon to his cat you know.) Scalzi on Writing is a collection of posts on writing, or tangentially about writing, taken from the archives of this blog and arranged and edited to make a book format. This is not to detract from the book itself, it is arranged to flow very well and the articles are top-notch, but anyone who was expecting new material will be sorely disappointed. That said, much of the material included dates from before I was a Whatever reader and so was new to me, so I didn't find this an issue. Some of the material has dated, some quite amusingly so, but on the whole this remains a useful book for any writer's shelf. So what exactly is it about? It is divided into sections, each somewhat thematically linked, but what it is on the whole is a series of essays focused on the life of a working writer. He covers a variety of topics from how he supports himself and his family (it isn't with his novels), how much a writer can expect to make (not enough for that yacht you've got your eye on), how the publication industry works (blood sacrifice and virgin writer tears) to, my personal favourites, writers/publishers behaving badly. (Plagiarism, Dishonest vanity publishers, scams.. so much fun.) It's not a large book, but there is a lot covered in the accessible, light-hearted manner that Scalzi's blog-writing is justifiably famous for. The only thing that was missing was a picture of his cat.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    Cute, informative. Irreverent, but not irrelevant. Not heavy reading either. Crowded a pile of old blog entries between two covers and called it a book. He told us what he was doing, we shouldn't complain. Cute, informative. Irreverent, but not irrelevant. Not heavy reading either. Crowded a pile of old blog entries between two covers and called it a book. He told us what he was doing, we shouldn't complain.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aleksandr Voinov

    2.5 stars, since largely outdated.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    A collection of Scalzi's blog postings from 2001 to 2006, focusing on writing, what it's like to make a living through writing, and comments about authors (particularly science fiction authors) I became a big fan of Scalzi's blog about two years ago. I love his bluntness and his little-to-no-bullshit tone. I sometimes want to call bullshit on people and things at work and I can't do this so I enjoy seeing someone's ability (and willingness) to do this. I've often wondered why he doesn't write mor A collection of Scalzi's blog postings from 2001 to 2006, focusing on writing, what it's like to make a living through writing, and comments about authors (particularly science fiction authors) I became a big fan of Scalzi's blog about two years ago. I love his bluntness and his little-to-no-bullshit tone. I sometimes want to call bullshit on people and things at work and I can't do this so I enjoy seeing someone's ability (and willingness) to do this. I've often wondered why he doesn't write more about writing on his blog and now I know: he's already done it, and here it is. In one essay, Scalzi mentions that, while he makes a good living with his writing, he can't support himself on his book writing alone (he did a lot of commercial nonfiction to pay the bills) and that one day hopefully he'll get there. This made me smile, because at this point he's there. John Scalzi feels like a friend I've never met, and (as he frequently says) it's nice to see your friends succeed. And then he segues into how, if you don't know what you're talking about, you're basically just 'farting from your larynx'. And there's Scalzi. What's not to like?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eric Mesa

    If you are an aspiring writer, Scalzi tells it like it is and gives you a good feeling for what it might be like to be a modern writer. No writing tips here - that's for other types of books. This one is about being a writer and making a living. If you're not aspiring writer (like me), but you like to nerd out on the industry, then you'll likely find it fun. If you like Whatever, Scalzi's blog, these are simply entries from his blog that have had some editing to form into a cohesive book. I like If you are an aspiring writer, Scalzi tells it like it is and gives you a good feeling for what it might be like to be a modern writer. No writing tips here - that's for other types of books. This one is about being a writer and making a living. If you're not aspiring writer (like me), but you like to nerd out on the industry, then you'll likely find it fun. If you like Whatever, Scalzi's blog, these are simply entries from his blog that have had some editing to form into a cohesive book. I like his style, so I enjoyed the book. He seems to have a vocal group of haters, if you're in that group you'll probably hate this book. Finally, this book contains entries that are >10 years old at this point - 2004-2006. So it's really funny being in the future and knowing about his current multi-million dollar contract with Tor books while reading entries in which he hopes he can sell more than just Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Suible

    I bought this book because I like Scalzi's blog and I wanted plenty to read on my Kindle when I went on vacation. I think this book would be helpful to aspiring writers. The advice is solid and backed up with lots of "real life". That's not why I bought the book. I bought it because I thought it would be interesting, entertaining and I figured I owed Scalzi after reading his blog for several years. It was interesting and entertaining. Yes, you can dig through his blog archive and find the same ar I bought this book because I like Scalzi's blog and I wanted plenty to read on my Kindle when I went on vacation. I think this book would be helpful to aspiring writers. The advice is solid and backed up with lots of "real life". That's not why I bought the book. I bought it because I thought it would be interesting, entertaining and I figured I owed Scalzi after reading his blog for several years. It was interesting and entertaining. Yes, you can dig through his blog archive and find the same articles. shrug. It is a real insider's look at the publishing world - definitely from a writer's point of view. So even if you don't want to write, it is still a really good read. I do have a quibble - although even as I write this, I know it is unfair - the book is dated. Lots of things have changed since 2005 . . . haven't they? The book is oddly like looking at a moment in time, in the past. On the other hand, that is the nature of books - they are moments in time. Only classics are forever. This book is not a classic, but it is a good read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Carlson

    This is a collection of his non-fiction works about writing. He is, after all, a successful writer. It's a great read. If you're thinking of becoming a professional writer, meaning that writing is your main source of income, then this is a must read. There's loads of good advice, some you might not want to hear. Scalzi doesn't pull any punches. (Which is one reason I really enjoy his non-fiction commentaries.) I was also surprised to see how tough it is to make a living at writing. Scalzi doesn't This is a collection of his non-fiction works about writing. He is, after all, a successful writer. It's a great read. If you're thinking of becoming a professional writer, meaning that writing is your main source of income, then this is a must read. There's loads of good advice, some you might not want to hear. Scalzi doesn't pull any punches. (Which is one reason I really enjoy his non-fiction commentaries.) I was also surprised to see how tough it is to make a living at writing. Scalzi doesn't live off his novel sales. He lives off contractual business writing. And he doesn't get rich off it, either. I was a little disappointed to find out that, until recently, he didn't make much more than I do. And I'm sure he works a lot harder at it. Of course, as his star has risen, so has his income. He probably makes twice, maybe thrice, what I do now. Most genre fiction writers, especially in sci-fi, have day jobs that pay the bills. It's not easy to make a living writing books. But if you think that's what you want to do, then be sure to read this first.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eric Duprey

    I've recently read several of John Scalzi's novels (Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, The Android's Dream, Redshirts) and find his writing to be accessible and engaging. From Amazon, I learned that he had written a book about writing; as an aspiring writer myself this seemed like the perfect thing to help develop my own skills. It should be noted first that this is a topical collection of posts from John's blog "Whatever". I don't consider this a bad thing, but I know that for some reason, some I've recently read several of John Scalzi's novels (Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, The Android's Dream, Redshirts) and find his writing to be accessible and engaging. From Amazon, I learned that he had written a book about writing; as an aspiring writer myself this seemed like the perfect thing to help develop my own skills. It should be noted first that this is a topical collection of posts from John's blog "Whatever". I don't consider this a bad thing, but I know that for some reason, some of you may object to buying a book / ebook collected from a blog for which the content is freely available. This is mostly a book about the business of writing and the things that come up in the life and career of a professional writer, rather than a book on the art of writing. You won't find much on plot, setting or characters here. For me personally, I still found it to be very insightful and useful as I contemplate beginning such a career myself, and it was entertaining and funny as well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    Although I think the e-book version had some typos and could've benefited from better editing, I do enjoy Scalzi's writing style. These were culled from his Whatever blog and has much to do with the business of writing (both publishing, fiction, non-fiction, business, etc). Very informative and useful. Plus, Scalzi breaks down real numbers (including his). I learned quite a bit and was inspired (albeit, in a very practical sort of manner). Although I think the e-book version had some typos and could've benefited from better editing, I do enjoy Scalzi's writing style. These were culled from his Whatever blog and has much to do with the business of writing (both publishing, fiction, non-fiction, business, etc). Very informative and useful. Plus, Scalzi breaks down real numbers (including his). I learned quite a bit and was inspired (albeit, in a very practical sort of manner).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    John Scalzi has been a journalist, a paid blogger, an unpaid blogger, an author, and an editor; and he has written corporate pieces and newspaper and magazine columns, as well as fiction and non-fiction. I think that qualifies him to talk about writing, the writing life, and writers. You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing is a collection of posts from Scalzi’s blog, the Whatever, written in 2001-2006. Right off the bat, readers should consider two John Scalzi has been a journalist, a paid blogger, an unpaid blogger, an author, and an editor; and he has written corporate pieces and newspaper and magazine columns, as well as fiction and non-fiction. I think that qualifies him to talk about writing, the writing life, and writers. You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing is a collection of posts from Scalzi’s blog, the Whatever, written in 2001-2006. Right off the bat, readers should consider two things about this book. First, it was written before the recent economic downturn (whose effects on freelance writing are still being determined). Second, Scalzi’s professional history cannot be replicated today (even he admits he was lucky). Still Scalzi’s book is still useful to the beginning writer looking to get practical advice written in an entertaining style. Chapter One is grouped around the theme of writing advice. Scalzi’s goal is not to teach you how to write, but how to make writing your business. Scalzi absolutely loves writing (and would likely do it for free, but getting paid is better). He knows it is his job, and he treats it seriously. He doesn’t have much time for those writers who would prefer to live some artistically pure, bohemian lifestyle (as evidenced by the title of this book). He suggests that you think seriously about the audience of your piece. Write well, and write for that audience. He suggest you listen well, work hard, and produce quality quickly. Give the client what they ask for the first time. If someone wants to make changes to your work, make the changes and don’t bemoan the damage to your artistic image. Scalzi has no time for jerks or whiners. He wants to put food on the table and pay his mortgage. This advice will rub some readers the wrong way, undoubtedly, but beginner writers like myself need this advice. Scalzi also talks about rejection. Expect it. Scalzi provides the metrics he used when he was an editor, and he points readers to the metrics used by other editors. Bottom line–it’s really not personal. It’s about whether your material is submitted correctly, is of sufficient quality, and it fits their needs and timing. When you get rejected move on, and look for another place to publish. Scalzi also talks about how to develop an online audience and how it can help your chances of getting published. Time spent whining about your misfortune or envying those more successful than you is time wasted in Scalzi’s mind, especially when no one will take you very seriously until you are published. Yes, rejection hurts, but these essays will give you the support you need to keep submitting. Lastly, Scalzi talks about when a beginner writer should give up his day job for writing (here’s a hint: not for a while, and probably not ever). A freelancer loses out on benefits and retirement packages most day jobs offer, so you need to be making more than you currently do before you jump ship. This will often require you to be working in multiple sectors, working on multiple projects. Of course, this will take time to develop. And expect those sectors and products to shift over time. Stay flexible and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In fact, staying driven and flexible are central themes Scalzi returns to. You need to plan for change and be proactive in your response to it. I would have liked more discussion on marketing yourself and finding work within those other sectors (particularly the corporate sector), but this is a minor quibble with the book. Chapter Two’s essays are grouped around the theme of the writer’s life. Scalzi is pretty open about his annual income: what it is, how it is derived, and how it has changed over time. He argues that your success as a writer will depend on your competence, opportunities available to you, and your willingness to explore new avenues. Basically, it’s all about the hustle. Scalzi also talks about how he ranks book advances, and how his opinion, as a writer, will necessarily be different from that of a publisher paying out the advance. Scalzi also runs through the math of advances and royalties, and how this math will affect your future publication deals. Bottom line: fiction often doesn’t pay authors well, so consider the advance all you will receive. And find other ways to supplement that income. Chapter two also includes a lot of essays detailing Scalzi’s personal preferences for typing over handwriting, his opinion on creative commons licensing, and online piracy of books. Although interesting, these essays are less useful for the budding writer. The most useful tips in Chapter Three are those designed to help new writers avoid basic mistakes, such as don’t be a jerk to others (it’s a small business); don’t trash others publicly; don’t lie in submission letters; and while an homage might be okay in fiction (so long as you are open about it in your acknowledgments), plagiarism is never okay. You would think these would be common sense. If they are not, I’m starting to feel better about my chances as a writer. Chapter Four is about the world of science fiction. The best takeaway from this chapter is that writers should resist the idea that science fiction is or should be a monoculture. There is room for everyone’s personal tastes. It should not be a small club for insiders only. Writers should feel free to write for a general reader who is not familiar with the latest ideas in science fiction. Although this is largely a response to criticisms of Scalzi’s book Old Man’s War, it’s good advice for the budding SF writer. Although the chapters become progressively less useful for someone interested in launching their freelance writing career, I would still recommend readers look at Coffee Shop. Scalzi’s advice might seem harsh, and not as artistic as one might like, but you cannot deny Scalzi’s success as a writer. A firm grounding in the practical side of the business of writing is sure to be useful. Read Coffee Shop; learn from it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Ayers

    Really interesting to read this ten years after publication; a lot of the speculation about the publishing industry is spot on. Also fascinating to see how self-publishing has evolved since this was written. There's still a lot of good writing advice, too, that hasn't aged out. Snarkiness never dies. Really interesting to read this ten years after publication; a lot of the speculation about the publishing industry is spot on. Also fascinating to see how self-publishing has evolved since this was written. There's still a lot of good writing advice, too, that hasn't aged out. Snarkiness never dies.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Graham Bradley

    Lots of authors write books on writing. Louis L'Amour did, and his book is on my all-time Top Ten. Stephen King also wrote a winner. Both of those were basically autobiographical and explained how they grew as individuals, and later how that shaped their writing. King's book had more of a technical side, whereas L'Amour talked about accuracy, detail and propriety of content. Scalzi takes a completely different approach, talking mostly about the business side of writing, and the attitude a writer Lots of authors write books on writing. Louis L'Amour did, and his book is on my all-time Top Ten. Stephen King also wrote a winner. Both of those were basically autobiographical and explained how they grew as individuals, and later how that shaped their writing. King's book had more of a technical side, whereas L'Amour talked about accuracy, detail and propriety of content. Scalzi takes a completely different approach, talking mostly about the business side of writing, and the attitude a writer ought to have toward his/her job. "Ought to" meaning "what has worked for Scalzi", which isn't necessarily a bad thing. He pulls down a six-figure income working freelance, not including the advances he gets from his novels. Every topic from relating to other authors, to dealing with plagiarism, to online flame wars, to getting an agent...it's all the business side. If you haven't been exposed to Scalzi's work before, this is a good place to start. There's some language throughout but he doesn't keep it prevalent--most of the entries in this book are posts from his blog, which has been around for over a decade. I didn't find myself disagreeing with much of anything in this book either--it transcends writing advice, and you can see his general personal philosophy and outlook on life, and it's really great. He seems like a very independent, likable, headstrong guy who only deliberately offends people back. I don't know, maybe I haven't read enough of his work on his blog, but that's the impression I get from his book. So yeah, tons of good advice in here, definitely worth your time. Certain chapters had me laughing out loud and thinking I'd even recommend this book to people who aren't writers. It's that good.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Karpuk

    The title tweaked me a bit, since I often get work done in coffee shops. The title didn't suggest why he thought it was a foolish practice. I assumed it was a behavior he saw as arrogant, or an affectation. What apparently bothers him about people using their laptops in coffee shops is the assumption that they're trying to get laid. Really? Because no one has ever so much as started a conversation with me in a coffee shop while I was writing, and I've seen plenty of other people perfectly content The title tweaked me a bit, since I often get work done in coffee shops. The title didn't suggest why he thought it was a foolish practice. I assumed it was a behavior he saw as arrogant, or an affectation. What apparently bothers him about people using their laptops in coffee shops is the assumption that they're trying to get laid. Really? Because no one has ever so much as started a conversation with me in a coffee shop while I was writing, and I've seen plenty of other people perfectly content to work without interruptions. Ah well. The first two thirds of Scalzi's book are an interesting look into the life of a working writer. Most books on the subject don't really give a sense of what the lifestyle is actually like, just the usual show don't tell advice and editing suggestions. While Scalzi's writing probably won't help me write, it's eye-opening at the very least. I would have rated it better, but I felt like he didn't try very hard to shepherd this information from his blog posts into an actual novel. Nothing seems fleshed out or revised to fit the medium or justify the cost, and the last third mostly seems composed of tangentially related, very dated blog entries based on statements by other writers who rubbed him the wrong way. You should probably just look up the chapter titles on his blog: http://whatever.scalzi.com Save your Scalzi money for the novels he apparently works so hard on.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hila

    Picked up this book thinking it's a happy, fun writing book by that nice, feminist, atheist guy from the Whatever, who wrote Old Man's War and The Android's Dream, which I enjoyed. Shame that I did, because about a quarter of the way in I'd come to the conclusion there was no shaking for the rest of it - this is an egomaniacal jerk who has no way to value anything except monetarily, with a deep disdain for art and the humanities (because they're not profitable, duh) and nothing genuinely interes Picked up this book thinking it's a happy, fun writing book by that nice, feminist, atheist guy from the Whatever, who wrote Old Man's War and The Android's Dream, which I enjoyed. Shame that I did, because about a quarter of the way in I'd come to the conclusion there was no shaking for the rest of it - this is an egomaniacal jerk who has no way to value anything except monetarily, with a deep disdain for art and the humanities (because they're not profitable, duh) and nothing genuinely interesting to say. Finished it because I kept hoping something, anything there would change my mind, but nothing. And, as a bonus, on the way to mocking the things in the publishing industry that do deserve mock (vanity presses, people with no self consciousness and a high opinion of themselves, people who recommend that you lie to editors about things easily checked) he manages to dump on: peer review, writing workshops, stories with depth and/or a message, anyone who doesn't have a book contract, anyone who didn't sell their book off their blog. A couple of funny anecdotes here and there, but no writing advice of note and nothing uniquely interesting to say about the publishing industry. And it's all off his blog, so (if we're to borrow his terminology) it's not even worth the money.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Destina

    I've read many, many books about writing - books that cover craft, and the practicalities of the writing life, as well as delving into the writer's psyche, and the pitfalls of both vocation and avocation. Some of those books do it with panache; some of them have useful advice. I think Scalzi's book might be useful for someone who knows absolutely nothing about the publishing business, but my god, it was deadly dull. I think he achieved his goal of bald practicality, but he did it at the cost of I've read many, many books about writing - books that cover craft, and the practicalities of the writing life, as well as delving into the writer's psyche, and the pitfalls of both vocation and avocation. Some of those books do it with panache; some of them have useful advice. I think Scalzi's book might be useful for someone who knows absolutely nothing about the publishing business, but my god, it was deadly dull. I think he achieved his goal of bald practicality, but he did it at the cost of anything remotely approaching entertainment. The book is as snarky and straightforward as his blog, which is both good and bad. I enjoy snark, and I prefer directness but this book is just...lacking in style or depth for anyone who knows the basics already. I'm seriously disappointed, and truly grateful I bought the Kindle edition, and didn't fork out for a hard copy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I've been reading Whatever for the last two years or so, so I've read a lot of Scalzi without having read these particular essays. Honestly, if you've read much of the blog, you can probably skip this one. It's perfectly well done, but I feel like between other Scalzi essays and other essays on writing, I've read most of this material before. Also, at this point, there's a fair amount of advice that's dated. Changes in the publishing industry are rapidly rendering a lot of good advice somewhat m I've been reading Whatever for the last two years or so, so I've read a lot of Scalzi without having read these particular essays. Honestly, if you've read much of the blog, you can probably skip this one. It's perfectly well done, but I feel like between other Scalzi essays and other essays on writing, I've read most of this material before. Also, at this point, there's a fair amount of advice that's dated. Changes in the publishing industry are rapidly rendering a lot of good advice somewhat moot. It's funny, it's a good window into Scalzi's incredibly sensible and ruthlessly practical approach to writing (both as a craft and as a living). But it's either for the total Scalzi rookie or for the completionist.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    I found this book to be an entertaining and practical reality check for any writer entering the business. The book is not about how to write but rather how to support yourself through your writing, which is quite a different set of skills. Scalzi talks about what he has done to put together a successful writing career, gives tips, and wisely counsels that everyone's career will necessarily follow a somewhat different path. His smart, sassy tone make the book fun reading. The last chapters-- conc I found this book to be an entertaining and practical reality check for any writer entering the business. The book is not about how to write but rather how to support yourself through your writing, which is quite a different set of skills. Scalzi talks about what he has done to put together a successful writing career, gives tips, and wisely counsels that everyone's career will necessarily follow a somewhat different path. His smart, sassy tone make the book fun reading. The last chapters-- concerning sci-fi authors and issues---were of somewhat less interest to me. But all in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Scalzi turns his scathingly funny eye on the business of writing. This is not your typical how-to book for budding authors. This is about the business of writing. He discusses the not so fun and artistic portion of being a writer -- the contracts, getting them and keeping them, money issues, promotion. Scalzi looks at all of the less than glamorous, slightly boring aspects and provides insight which is not only useful but damned amusing. Everyone will find this amusing, authors will find it espe Scalzi turns his scathingly funny eye on the business of writing. This is not your typical how-to book for budding authors. This is about the business of writing. He discusses the not so fun and artistic portion of being a writer -- the contracts, getting them and keeping them, money issues, promotion. Scalzi looks at all of the less than glamorous, slightly boring aspects and provides insight which is not only useful but damned amusing. Everyone will find this amusing, authors will find it especially useful.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    This book reminded me how much I love the library. The patron ahead of me returned a copy. "Scalzi on Writing." I like Scalzi. I like Stephen King's On Writing. Sounds like a good time. This isn't something I would have bumped into on my own. As a non-writer, the financial aspect of the book was irrelevant to me. But Scalzi made it entertaining, so I enjoyed it anyway. It was repetitive, but it was a collection of essays that weren't intended as a standalone book, so that didn't bother me too much This book reminded me how much I love the library. The patron ahead of me returned a copy. "Scalzi on Writing." I like Scalzi. I like Stephen King's On Writing. Sounds like a good time. This isn't something I would have bumped into on my own. As a non-writer, the financial aspect of the book was irrelevant to me. But Scalzi made it entertaining, so I enjoyed it anyway. It was repetitive, but it was a collection of essays that weren't intended as a standalone book, so that didn't bother me too much.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matt Weber

    I haven't finished this yet. I'm enjoying it; mostly it's a goad to remind me how much more I should be writing, but that sort of goad is useful. Anyway, the only real reason I'm writing anything here at all is to note that I do not endorse the title. I have gotten some badass writing done in coffee shops. Whether the words were worth the cost of coffee... well, that's not really up to me, is it? I haven't finished this yet. I'm enjoying it; mostly it's a goad to remind me how much more I should be writing, but that sort of goad is useful. Anyway, the only real reason I'm writing anything here at all is to note that I do not endorse the title. I have gotten some badass writing done in coffee shops. Whether the words were worth the cost of coffee... well, that's not really up to me, is it?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Annabeth Leong

    Acerbic, refreshing, and practical. As always, I enjoy the humorous tone Scalzi uses while laying out blunt, hard-hitting opinions. Since much of the book was written after Old Man's War came out but before it was clear it would be a success, this book captures a really interesting moment in a writer's career. By the end, I'd come to feel it had gotten a bit repetitive (the blog entries from which the book is adapted often cover overlapping topics). However, the book was well worth the time. Acerbic, refreshing, and practical. As always, I enjoy the humorous tone Scalzi uses while laying out blunt, hard-hitting opinions. Since much of the book was written after Old Man's War came out but before it was clear it would be a success, this book captures a really interesting moment in a writer's career. By the end, I'd come to feel it had gotten a bit repetitive (the blog entries from which the book is adapted often cover overlapping topics). However, the book was well worth the time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marty Kay

    Fantastic stuff, and strangley familiar... I wonder why :D Reprints from Mr Scalzi's blog, with additions, but still fun and enjoyable. King's On Writing spoke a lot about the doing and being of a writer, Scalzi's book talks a lot on the business side and the life of one. I thought it was a great read full of useful information and Scalzi's brand of snark. Fantastic stuff, and strangley familiar... I wonder why :D Reprints from Mr Scalzi's blog, with additions, but still fun and enjoyable. King's On Writing spoke a lot about the doing and being of a writer, Scalzi's book talks a lot on the business side and the life of one. I thought it was a great read full of useful information and Scalzi's brand of snark.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    A writing book, but a writing book about the publishing industry, rather than another how-to book. Anyone familiar with John Scalzi's blog will recognize the tone (and even some of the chapters) from that internet haven, Whatever. A writing book, but a writing book about the publishing industry, rather than another how-to book. Anyone familiar with John Scalzi's blog will recognize the tone (and even some of the chapters) from that internet haven, Whatever.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matthew J. Marlieu

    Scalzi offers up an interesting personal insight on the business of writing. Not on writing, but more so the money side and getting published side of it. It's full of anecdotes and I think many of the chapters available in this short, little book are still up on his blog. You might have to do some digging, but they're probably still there. Scalzi offers up an interesting personal insight on the business of writing. Not on writing, but more so the money side and getting published side of it. It's full of anecdotes and I think many of the chapters available in this short, little book are still up on his blog. You might have to do some digging, but they're probably still there.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Pullman

    This is a selective gathering of postings from the authors website. Each is short and interesting, and the way they've been put together makes a statement about a writing topic. He has a definite point of view on the occupation and the field of writing (and some opinions about writer, readers, and publishers). Very fun to pick up and read a few entries at a time. This is a selective gathering of postings from the authors website. Each is short and interesting, and the way they've been put together makes a statement about a writing topic. He has a definite point of view on the occupation and the field of writing (and some opinions about writer, readers, and publishers). Very fun to pick up and read a few entries at a time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Got this in its first edition, as Subterranean Press is one of my favorite quality publishers and Scalzi's blog had drawn me in as a reader months before. Well worth the read, both for fledgling writers to get some advice and for others just for a good read. Got this in its first edition, as Subterranean Press is one of my favorite quality publishers and Scalzi's blog had drawn me in as a reader months before. Well worth the read, both for fledgling writers to get some advice and for others just for a good read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jason Horger

    Absolutely hilarious look at trying to crack into the writing game as a full-time career. (SPOILER: it involves a great deal of talent and luck.) Scalzi's fantastic at cutting to the chase and telling you about yourself. Required reading for all writers, amateur or otherwise! Absolutely hilarious look at trying to crack into the writing game as a full-time career. (SPOILER: it involves a great deal of talent and luck.) Scalzi's fantastic at cutting to the chase and telling you about yourself. Required reading for all writers, amateur or otherwise!

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