The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises by James Scott Bell has earned space on my shelf of all-time favorite books on writing. As I reach for it time and time again, I have come to think of it as a manual I will consult throughout my writing life. Part advice on publishing, plus insights on how to keep your sanity while navigating the world of the writer, and solid, specific tips on how to take your fiction to the next level puts this book in the don’t-miss category. The format, presented in 77 mini-chapters (one subject each) makes this book easy to read and assimilate, and user-friendly as a perfect writer’s tool. I reach for it often, scan the table of contents and find the specific advice I need—feeling like I have a writing coach right at my side.
The first section, RECONNAISSANCE, covers “the mental game of writing” with such topics as Know the difference between a hero and a fool to A writer must always be prepared to break through ‘the wall’ to Turn envy into energy and more words. The author speaks to each topic in clear and honest language with precise ideas on how to implement each concept into your writing life. I often turn to this section when I’m about to bang my head against the wall in frustration. Thanks to the book, I’m saving big money on headache medication.
The second section, TACTICS, gives great advice on the craft of writing. These are not the typical topics found in “how to write” books, but deep insights on technique that will make you think about your own work in powerful and unique terms. His craft advice focuses on taking your WIP (Work In Progress) beyond a good, solid story to give you the edge that will set your manuscript apart.
The third section, STRATEGY, is advice on what Bell calls “the no man’s land of the publishing biz.” He helps you take a look at your writing career in strategic terms that will keep you going through all the ups and downs of publishing, even as it changes.
At times the book makes me feel uncomfortable as I find myself on the page. Whining will not help you win the battle for publication. Er…yeah. True. Thanks for reminding me. Test your premise to prove it worthy. Wow, thanks, and there’s a specific list to help you do it! Bell even offers a mini (3-page) goal setting seminar: A goal is just a dream unless it has legs that tells you how to do it.
You can pick this book up anytime and learn something to help advance your writing, career, and outlook to a new level. An easy-to-use format, clear concise language, specific exercises and steps for everything from creative ideas to managing your career, this book is a must-have.
This book gets a 5 star rating for not only a great book on writing, but for a manual you’ll pick up repeatedly and learn something new every time.