Book Review, Books!, Inspiration, Signal Boost, Weekend Writer, Writing

Weekend Writer: Reconnaissance, or Part One of The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

Hey all, Dani here.

Welcome back to Weekend Writer. Today I’m talking through the first section of my next writing craft read, which was chosen by you guys on Twitter (follow me @danielle.thamasa to keep up with the latest polls), and honestly I’m really happy this book was chosen. I flew through it pretty quickly and managed to collate a lot of really cool tips and exercises. I truly hope these weekly posts are proving to be as helpful to you in your creative endeavors as they are to me. I’m learning so much, and hope that I am passing some of that wisdom on to you.

It would be really cool for all of us who want to write creatively (whether that is poetry, stories, novellas, novels, screenplays, RPGs, video games, whatever) to be able to help uplift and inspire each other, and keep ourselves motivated to strive for our dreams, so I decided to start this blog series here. This series will be a lot of me working through books on writing and creativity, maybe doing and sharing some writing exercises, and possibly doing some writing based discussion posts. It’s going to be an adventure for sure, and I hope it helps you as much as it is helping me.

The Art of War for Writers


Successfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles – against the page, against one’s own self-doubt, against rebellious characters, etc. Featuring timeless, innovative, and concise writing strategies and focused exercises, this book is the ultimate battle plan and more – it’s Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” for novelists. Tactics and exercises are provided on idea generation and development, character building, plotting, drafting, querying and submitting, dealing with rejection, coping with envy and unrealistic expectations, and much more.

Part One: Reconnaissance

First thing I should talk about is the fact that this book will be a bit different from the last one. There are not a bunch of interesting imagery and graphics in this book. What I will say is that all of the “chapters” in this book are really short, like 1-3 pages, so each tip and tactic can be read and used very quickly.

Part One: Reconnaissance has the first 22 tips of the book, and they mostly focus on the beginning of the writing and/or creative process. So let’s get started.

Okay, so I literally copied the the tip/chapter title for each of the 22 in this section, but I feel like typing them all up here could be too much copying for the purposes of copyright and the like.

This section starts with telling us creatives that we should understand the publishing industry before entering the fray. Basically the publishing business is just that, a business, so it’s all about money. If you want to make it in the industry, you need to be of value to them.

“So as one who wants to make a career out of fiction writing, you simply must show the publisher your value, now and in the future.” –pg 9

Writers must also understand the basic building blocks for success, so they know how to handle a long-term career and be successful. Those blocks are: Desire, Discipline, Commitment to Craft, Patience, Honesty, Willingness to Learn, Business-like Attitude, Rhino skin, Long-term View, and Talent. Reflect on these steps whenever necessary, review your position, and then replan accordingly.

You have to be certain that you really want this, that you have a desire to write and continue writing. More than that, having a firm foundation in discipline is truly the first step towards victory, so have a goal, a quota of words that you want to write each week and then stick to that.

A successful career as a writer is actually a roller coaster. When you finish a book and submit it, when it gets accepted, when it first hits shelves, these are all high points, but there are also all sorts of low points, with all of the self-doubt and anxieties, the worry on if you can keep this sustainable, if you have another book in you, etc. You can’t control every aspect of the writing and publishing industry. All you can focus on is your own job, which is putting the words on the page.

Also, whining will not help you win in the battle for publication. Oh, and don’t be desperate, because editors and agents want to work with professionals. Know the proper pitch and submission processes and follow them. Don’t follow an agent into the bathroom and pitch your book there.

“Now, the writing life is full of fears. Fear of not being good enough; of not getting published; of getting published and not selling; of getting published once and never again; of getting stomped by critics (even those within your own family). Fear that your mother will be disappointed in what you’ve written, or your father will think you’re just wasting your life.” –pg 28

When I told my mom that I wanted to be a writer, she told me that it would be an incredibly difficult pursuit, and that I should have a stable fallback plan. It’s one of the reasons why I continued to pursue my education to become a librarian. I wanted to surround myself with books and authors who inspire me, to keep myself informed on matters of publication, to know the trends in the publishing industry.

Another thing this book points out is that having an over-inflated ego brings no value to the experience. Tooting your own horn isn’t going to earn you respect or accolades. You earn those by just focusing on the work, and letting your writing toot your horn for you. Speaking of egos, the worry over status, and comparing yourself to others is also not helpful. So stop checking your Amazon Index, stop Googling yourself, and look into other hobbies instead. Expand your horizons to inform your writing even more.

“If envy hits you hard, I’ll allow you an hour to feel it for all it’s worth. Call a friend or loved one and talk it out. But after one hour, get back to the keyboard or writing pad and produce some words.” — pg 46

“So learn from the greats. Read and study those you admire. But never compare yourself to them. You are becoming the best you, not another them.” — pg 48

This book also makes note of the fact that a career novelist will always continue to work on improving their writing. Some make an improvement notebook, where they keep examples of writers they admire, note down comments from critique groups and editors, and come up with a self-study plan to work on weak areas.

Career writers must also be self-motivated. Stay hungry so your determination doesn’t wane. Put your heart into everything you write.

Most importantly, finish your novel, because you learn more that way that any other.

Where to Get a Copy

If my thoughts on this section of the book have helped you, then you can get your own copy of the whole book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Book Depository, or your local independent bookstore.

You can also check with your library.

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