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.
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.