Jack's Reviews > Writing Fiction for Dummies

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson
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's review
Sep 25, 2011

it was ok
Read from September 25, 2011 to July 11, 2013

I wanted to like this book, but I didn't. It is highly-rated both here and on Amazon, and I am familiar with Ingermanson's website "Advanced Fiction Writing." I figured I would give it a shot.

I think part of the problem is that this book sticks to the Dummies format of step-by-step instructions, helpful hints, and a beginning-to-end process. The problem is that there isn't a strict process in writing, which to be fair to Ingermanson, he does point out (before giving a step-by-step process). What works for him may not work for you, and almost undoubtedly will not work the same way.

There is some good information in there. It is a good overview of terms and general "rules" for writing, although there are a lot of books that address those topics more completely, some of which he mentions in this book. Go through and make a list of the books and sites he references, it could be worth your time. They, for the most part, do a better job of addressing their topics.

However, my real problem with this book concerns how it treats publication. Going with the general format of a Dummies book, it addresses the process of publication, and even goes through rejection as if it was troubleshooting errors on Windows 8. In someways, this trivializes the toughest part about being a writer. Golf for Dummies doesn't talk about how to win tournaments. Cooking for Dummies won't help you open a restaurant as head chef. Baseball for Dummies isn't going to get you a pro contract. Instead, you learn the basics to use Linux or build a deck, or whatever you are reading about. Publication (and getting paid for it) makes a professional writer.

Most pro-rate magazines have a acceptance rate of less than 5%. That means the editor has to like your story better than 95% of the other stories. Book publishers have just as high of a rejection rate. Neil Gaiman could write a shopping list tomorrow, and it would be nominated for a Hugo. Stephen King could write poetry that started with "There once was a girl from Nantucket..." and Esquire would publish it in the next issue. But until you are at that level, you are going to be rejected. Even professional writers who do this for a living deal with rejection. Unfortunately, this book doesn't really address that. Even if you have a strong story, it might get rejected, probably will, in fact. Look at the list of publishers that rejected Harry Potter, one of the best-selling series of all-time.

This business requires a thick skin and a lot of time. If you follow this book step-by-step, you will have a story. But that is all you will have,and it probably won't be any good, especially if you are a beginner. Don't be afraid of that. Embrace it. Start writing another. Read a lot. Write a lot. Submit your strongest, most polished stories, shrug off the rejections and keep going, because that is really the only way to get there.
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07/11/2013 marked as: read

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