Books about writing can seem like a dime a dozen. Every author out there seems to have one. Few and far between, however, are the books about writing that actually make an impact on the quality of your work and your ability to publish it.
If you’re looking for a book that accomplishes both, enter author and story coach, Larry Brooks.
As a presenter story coach, Brooks, an acclaimed novelist, has been making the rounds at writer’s conferences for years. I have seen his presentation multiple times at The Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon, and the room is always packed.
A powerful speaker with a charismatic vision for stories, Brooks has written an array of writing staples like Story Engineering, Story Physics, and Story Fix (offered in no particular order of preference). Each of these books about writing is worthy of your consideration.
In his latest, Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves, Brooks tackles the elephant in the room for most writers. Is the idea good enough? Is the concept strong enough to win readers over? One of the key factors distinguishing Brooks from his peers is this: his message focuses on how to increase your odds of publishing a book.
That is, in a large majority of the cases, the end goal, right?
Brooks presents his case with considerable attention to facts. He tells is that 96% of manuscripts won’t ever be published. He says that self-publishing is not a safe haven for authors whose stories are weak, or for concepts half baked. He differentiates between literary novels and genre (his emphasis on how to write the latter). He describes how real, solid books work and breaks those down into usable advice.
At times, Brooks’ straight forward approach can be quite sobering. Yes, the odds are long. Yes, the criteria for a breakout hit are high. But, in the face of those difficult realities, he’s also the one giving the tools.
On tough, steep roads, a writer needs a guide.
In Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves, Brooks breaks a book down by its main story points. He examines each area in-depth, diving deep into what makes each one tick, what needs to happen in order for the story moment to resonate, and then shows successful examples from other books. A few times, he even uses anecdotes from his story coaching career to show instances where those beats didn’t work.
After reading those side-by-side examples, it’s hard not to see which path your book is on.
Larry Brooks is a sharp, no-nonsense kind of a writer. This book is quintessentially him, packed with great advice, nuggets of windows, and rich examples that are beyond question. Most of all, when it comes to books on writing, his voice is clear.
If you’re going to choose one book about writing this year, make it this one. You won’t regret it.