Book review · Non-fiction

Book Review: Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig

Every penny is turned over twice and quite often bitten in two before it gets spent on renovations to our home. This means I have a very limited book budget and I spend a lot of time thinking long and hard before deciding to buy one.

However, I’ve been killing myself trying to work on my novel on top of my full time job and aforementioned renovation project for about 8 months now.

This often means foregoing sleep in favour of writing. Foregoing proper meals in favour of writing. Foregoing lunch breaks in favour of writing. You name it. I even edit short stories on my phone during potty breaks at work.

Last week, I was really struggling and needed to recharge my mental batteries. All I did was stare at a screen or an empty page. Scraping out a measly two hundred words would take me hours.

So I decided to give myself two days off. Two days of just reading, relaxing and filling my mind with images I hadn’t been forced to create myself. Let me tell you: it was glorious.

After reading How to Be a Writer in This Fucked-Ass Age of Rot and Resistance, an article by Chuck Wendig on his blog Terrible Minds, only days before deciding on my brain’s minivacation, I’d already become a fan.

On his blog, he has cover images of some of the books he’s published and this one book jumped out at me. Damn Fine Story. ‘Cause isn’t that what we all want to do? Tell a damn fine story?

I’d scraped out a meager book budget and ignored my guilty conscience when it tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “That money could be a tile in your new kitchen, you know?”

I did the look inside thing on Amazon, knowing that I’d be a lost cause after reading about two sentences. And I bought it. Of course I bought it.

I started to read that very night and I stormed through it in as close to one sitting as I ever manage. I read in the mornings during breakfast, through my lunch breaks at work, and while I waited out in the pasture for the horses to finish their dinner.

Damn Fine Story doesn’t tell you about the act of writing stories. It tells you about the art of telling good ones and it does so across a variety of mediums, finding similarities in surprising places and exploring the differences that inevitably pop up.

Wendig teaches by example, using pop culture references that have embedded themselves in our collective memory and what’s more, he does so with a dry wit and tongue-in-cheek humour that had me snorting with laughter in public places. People stared at me funnily and my husband eyed me suspiciously as he asked me who I was texting with and I couldn’t care less.

What I like the most about Wendig’s style of writing is that he forces me to look at things I thought I knew in a completely different light. As much as I enjoy graphic novels, movies and television series, I’d never really thought of them in terms of story structure or considered analysing them, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned.

I’m a pantser at heart and I’m discovering my novel as I draft it, just like the characters are forced to do. I let them run wild–as if they give me any choice–and I write down what they throw at me, more or less.

But the way in which Wendig got me thinking about stuff like interaction, theme and conflict has already helped me get a better grip on the story I’m telling. It’s helped me a long way towards learning to look below the surface, where the pretty words float, down to the bones of a story.

I’ve never read a book about writing that glued my ass to my seat and had me rushing to read more–absorb more. I already know I’ll have to read it again at a slower pace, to really take in all the details

And I’ve never read a book before that had me eagerly looking forward to the footnotes, either. Seriously. If you read one book on writing this year, Damn Fine Story should be it. For those hilarious footnotes alone.

Thank you, Mr. Wendig, for writing a damn fine book.

Until next time,

Hugs

Jasmine

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