I’m about 200 pages into Chuck Wendig’s The Kick-Ass Writer and I despise it.
Now, to be clear I don’t dislike Mr Wendig, in fact I don’t know that much about him outside of reading his blog for a little bit at some point, evidently long enough to make me curious as to what knowledge on writing he espouses in book format. But I don’t like the book, it feels repetitive and bloated, filled with half-baked analogies with intentions of comedy. And to be fair, some of them are amusing, just not all of them. Between these analogies and the constant repetition (especially in the first section) I feel as though the book has been made an order of magnitude longer than it’s content necessitates - I remember several times reading passages about not having excess in the book where it isn’t needed, perhaps this book should have followed some of that advice. The whole book isn’t a write off, there are a lot of good bits in there, buried beneath the chaff. But much of it could be more concise, especially concerning the fundamentals. Yes, practice makes perfect, thank you, Captain Obvious, that’s why it’s an idiom already. Hlaf the contents also feel directly at odds with one another, and I think I understand why, the book is trying to give readers something to latch onto, something that will resonate with them. But when you read one point about letting go of “your voice” and then the next one says to “find your voice” it really feels as if things have been thrown at the wall in the hopes that something would stick.
My assumption is someone said to the author “Write down everything you could possibly think of about writing, we’re aiming for 1001 points.” and he returned with 1001, half of which were points previously outlined repeated and worded slightly differently and 100 were the diametric opposite of another 100.
I might be being too harsh of a critic, there are a lot of useful points later on in the book, well past the initial “basics” chapters and they are helpful to remember (or to jog your memory depending how much of the storytelling craft your dissected and learnt about previously), but the useful points are far outweighed by the repetitiveness and the comedy, or attempts at. There were some analogies that I smirked at but the vast majority of them were time-wasting fluff that added little to the point he was making and at best just made it all the more distracting to read. I ended up at the end reading the title of the ‘point’ being made, skim read the first two lines for the general idea and then skipped the remaining six lines of rambling humour - this wasn’t even because I particularly despised the jokes, but just because I didn’t really want to spend that much time on them. Admittedly I might not have been the best audience for the book, I am probably just not a fan of the style. I wasn’t there for enjoyment I was there for answers, or wisdom, or whatever you want to call it. I was looking for points that made me go “Ah, I do need to do more (or less) of that.”, unfortunately any useful moments like that were bookended by skimming over a dozen useless lines of semi-censored faux-foul-mouthed word salad. Maybe the last chapter is good but I didn’t make it there.
My takeaway: This book isn’t for me (and it’s probably getting recycled; I’m sorry trees, they never should have done this to you, maybe you’ll find life as another book or cardboard box, or whatever), but if you’re a fan of the author and his non-literature writing (blog posts, etc.) then maybe it will be for you. To be fair at least he didn’t spend half the book talking about his childhood or whatever (looking at you and you weird half-autobiography half-writing-advice book, Stephen King).