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Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  207 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Starve Better makes no promises of making you a bestselling author. It won't feed aspiring writers' dreams of fame and fortune. This book is about survival: how to generate ideas when you needed them yesterday, dialogue and plot on the quick, and what your manuscript is up against in the slush piles of the world. For non-fiction writers, Starve Better offers writing techni ...more
Paperback, 172 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Apex Publications (first published April 24th 2011)
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  207 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: MFAs, guys with laptops at coffee shops, term paper artists
I've read a lot of books about writing. I don't really read the "writer's advice" books anymore, because I don't need help with grammar and punctuation and I don't need to be told why it's bad to start your story with your protagonist waking up from a dream and examining herself in the mirror. But I like reading books by writers about writing. Of course I loved Stephen King's On Writing, and I also liked John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist, even though if I ever do become a novelist, I'll be n ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Imma be honest here. Nick Mamatas came across like kind of a dick. I understand that this was not meant to be a hand-holding book, nor a misty-eyed celebration of Art and Life and The Mysteries of Creativity, but... he still came across like a dick.

Admittedly, while I have a lot of interest in writing, I have absolutely no interest in the short story or magazine market, so I'm probably not the target audience to begin with. Nick Mamatas is certainly not to blame for my own weird ambivalence abou
Aksel Dadswell
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Funny, honest, incredibly useful advice. If you're a writer, especially a fledgling one, you need to read this immediately.
Thomas Pluck
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent advice throughout. Cuts through the BS.
Aditya  Singh
rated it really liked it
Oct 14, 2016
Richard Wright
Jul 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
As a writer, I like to read at least a book a year by other writers, writing about writing. A bit circular, but there you go. I find it gives me a bit of perspective on my own approach to listen to others discussing theirs. Consider it the equivalent of water cooler chat at the workplace. Books like this are all a matter of perspective, in a literal sense. They're one person's point of view, usually a tract on 'what works for them'. They're not to be taken as gospel, and the key to a good tome i ...more
Grant Wamack
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Starve Better by Nick Mamatas is a how-to-book for writers wishing to live solely off their words. Now I’ve wasted many hours reading books on how to write-the technical side and the business side and Mamatas is one of the more beneficial guides.

Many of the essays inside cover fiction and explore the mechanics of writing such as revision and story structure. The non-fiction side explains how make money off your words but the truth may not be what you expect. Also, he touches the subject of self-
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Frank and often hilarious collection of mini-essays and blog posts. Recommended for anyone looking to break into writing for the long haul, but also an entertaining insight into the life of the freelance writer in America, from MFA workshops to the ethically questionable (but, apparently, perfectly legal) art of writing term papers for a buck. Not all of the advice transcends international borders - for advice to be effective, it needs to be specific I suppose - but there's plenty of stuff that' ...more
Dave Versace
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Straight-talking (even brusque) advice on getting paying gigs as a writer, disdaining high-minded notions of Muse-borne artistic integrity in favour of writing to briefs, paying attention to what editors want and not dying of consumption in a garrett somewhere. Some of the observations concerning ebooks and self-publishing are a little dated - I'd love to see what Nick Mamatas has made of the self-publishing revolution since 2010 or so - and I would personally draw the line at making a living fr ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Kameron Hurley gave me this book last year, so thank you, Kameron! This book is a fabulous introduction to the real world of publishing. Because Mamatas is so prolific with short stories, he gives them the most time here, but he has plenty to say about other forms as well. If you want to write well, there are plenty of books out there to help you do that (Lamott, King, Zinsser, and of course Strunk and White come to mind). If you want to publish what you write, start here.
R.a. Deckert
May 01, 2011 rated it liked it
The best part of this book is the title, 'Starve Better.' It's brilliant.

The subtitle is: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life, which succinctly tells you what it's all about.

Any writer, or would be writer, has read a couple of hundred books like this. This is a run-of-the-mill book of this genre, neither startling good nor startling bed, just generally a good read and a lot of good advice.
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on writing, I really loved the no-nonsense, snarky approach and the focus on genre fiction. He blows the cobwebs off of a lot of the conventional advice mantras and either convinces you they're ridiculous or reworks them to make them better. A fun and quick read with a lot of great information, highly recommended.
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shows the hard work behind making it as a freelance writer and some of the skills involved in perfecting a short non-fiction piece, or a short story. Does not sugar coat it. There is a lot discussed, as in how to make it by producing a lot of writing on a daily basis, and having connections to small publishing houses, online journals/magazines, etc. I wanted a little more from this book and the tone was a bit depressing. I wanted to read something inspiring, and granted, it is called "Starve Bet ...more
Johann Thorsson
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a great book for writers, especially genre short-story writers. Mamatas has been in the field for a long time, both as a writer and an editor. In Starve Better he gives advice on writing well and on how to earn money writing.
Paul Fergus
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is common sense gold nuggets, plucked from the sewers of the writing industry by a wily and resourceful prospector who knows how to make a mean pot of beans. You couldn't ask for a better collection of insight and technique; people waste years of their lives to ferret out even one nugget of wisdom. Most writers haunt the sewers like hungry ghosts, their dreams dying in the gutter.

The author has tackled just about every stream in the tunnels that might pan out, and he shares his results
Apr 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's hard to review a writing how-to book effectively as more often than not the book only works for the reader if the actual advice the author is giving remains relevant to what the reader is aspiring toward. To solve this many of these books go general and give broad-stroke advice like "don't use adverbs" or "writer's write".

But these sorts of advice only apply if the reader finds them relevant. Joe Hill asked once why people should follow his advice, because to him writing is like navigating
Tyrannosaurus regina
I've read this book a couple of times before, largely for the same reason that I watch the WETA workshop featurettes on the LOTR DVDs multiple times—watching the process of other people's creativity inspires me. I don't find it a distraction. It makes me work harder.

But that doesn't explain why I like this one so much. Ultimately, it's just practical. It treats the short story as a legitimate endeavour in and of itself. It acknowledges and respects that people write different things for differen
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
A guide to the life of a professional writer that's simultaneously funny and no-nonsense - Mamatas writes with a dark, accessible wit, but with little romanticism about the craft or the profession. The book provides practical advice on both fiction writing and non-fiction writing, though the fiction section focuses more on short fiction.

This is the sort of writing advice book I've been seeking for years. Most writing advice books either focus on the basics - to outline or not to outline; how to
Bill Tarlin
This was an interesting read. It's essentially a survey of how Nick makes a buck. And one way is to cobble together an assemblage of blog posts and articles and market it as a how-to. The nuts and bolts of it is at least as good as Stephen King's On Writing; possibly more practical. My quibble is that the collection doesn't reflect much editing. Because it's pulled from existing pieces, certain asides and even entire anecdotes are repeated. The effect is one of haste and indifference to the end ...more
Christopher Novas
Really interesting book about writing. Here you'll find various tidbits, anecdotes, and advice ranging from: the act of submitting work, what separates "good writers" & "great writers", the pros/cons of MFA programs, the difference in market value between non-fiction and fiction submissions, teaching, genre, etc. It's a plethora of information all told through Mamatas' unique style. He won't be holding your hand and making sure you're extra special, but he will teach you to separate yourself ...more
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I’m generally not a big fan of books on writing. Even those books I’ve enjoyed I’ve never really recommended to other writers, as the whole writing process is so individual to any given writer that what I find useful may be worth very little to the next writer. But Starve Better is perhaps the only book on writing I’d unreservedly recommend to any writer. Mamatas brilliantly subverts much of the standard writerly advice out there. He’s unflinching, sometimes cynical, but never anything less than ...more
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I'd heard of Nick Mamatas before because he's written some novels that I keep thinking I should read, but I hadn't actually checked him out until I bought Starve Better. This is a great little book filled with charm and intelligence, some very sound advice, and enough sarcasm to help the sugar go down (if you know what I mean). What I like most, is that I believe it would be truly useful for a writer just starting out. It's filled with the kind of lessons that most of us only learn the hard way ...more
Nick Fagerlund
Jun 13, 2014 rated it liked it
More a business-of-writing advice book than a writing advice book.

I enjoyed this, found it informative, and thought was entertaining enough in its own right to perhaps be worth a read even if you’re not interested in the biz of selling short fiction and feature articles. Depends on how much you enjoy Mamatas going in on somebody.
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
I managed to devour this 171 page paperback in one day and really enjoyed it. However, a brief word of warning; don't buy it if you're desperately seeking serious instruction on the craft of writing, because it won't deliver.

What it does is entertain you with a a variety of short essays and humorous aphorisms about the author's experience as a writer.

It's no Bird by Bird, but a definite good read about living the life of a writer. Well worth the $13.95.
Justin Kassab
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've read a ton of craft books. They each have their strong points, but many of them talk about the magical part of writing, Mamatas talks about how to get paid as a writer.

The advice, tricks, and tips aren't sugar coated and if you have a solid background in English he's likely going to challenge much of what you've been taught.

If you want to be a full time writer, this is the best book on the market to teach you how.
Shawn Scarber Deggans
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Probably one of the most practical books on surviving as a writer today. This is a collection of previously published articles and essays covering everything from what an editor looks for in a speculative fiction short story to earning a quick buck writing term papers. I wish I had read this book 8 years ago.
Vinnie Tesla
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Pragmatic, ascerbic, breezy, snarky.

I dashed through this slender book in a day of very enjoyable reading, often wanting to read the most wittily nasty lines to my partner. Sometime soon I'll need to go back with a highlighter and extract the several nuggets of tough-minded advice I want to bear in mind on future projects.

Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great to read with Scalzi's "You're Not Fooling Anyone." Mamatas also writes in a direct, no nonsense fashion, but he pursues more the path of an artist, whereas Scalzi is more about making a living as a writer.
Cheryl Dowling
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Would be writers should definitely give it a read. Dry and witty, it will give those who romanticize the idea of "The Writer" a bit of a perspective adjustment. There's a lot of good solid advice and a bit of humor to be found throughout.
Simon Dewar
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: how-to-write
This is a great book with some great advice, particularly on writing short fiction.
It is incredibly humorous in Nick's classic dry kind of way.
I've used this as one reference for several blog posts on writing short fiction. All writers of short fiction should read this.
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Nick Mamatas is the author of the Lovecraftian Beat road novel Move Under Ground, which was nominated for both the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild awards, the Civil War ghost story Northern Gothic, also a Stoker nominee, the suburban nighmare novel Under My Roof, and over thirty short stories and hundreds of articles (some of which were collected in 3000 Miles Per Hour in Every Directio ...more