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You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing Hardcover – February 26, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

One of sf's most inventive rising stars, Scalzi is nonetheless a seasoned veteran in the writing game, having channeled his talents into everything from ad copy to best-selling humor books. His latest outing skims from five-years' worth of writing-related columns on his blog, "Whatever." More than 50 bite-sized chapters are sorted into four sardonically headed sections. Sardonic? Well, "Writing Advice; or, Avoiding Real Work" and "Science Fiction; or, Don't Skip This Chapter, You Damned Writing Snobs" are two of them. The former title covers tips for aspiring writers about the publishing business and the growing market for online material, while the latter skewers the persistent notion that sf is second-rate literature. The smorgasbord of other topics ranges from whining writers to amusing anecdotes about Scalzi's own literary influences. Whether advising how to handle rejection or debunking concerns over online book piracy, Scalzi writes with irresistible panache, making his insights into the writing business as entertaining as they are instructive. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Subterranean; 2nd Printing edition (December 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596060638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596060630
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,982,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What do we have here?

This book might look like advice to writers, but Scalzi isn't fooling anyone. It's better read as autobiography, as Scalzi on Scalzi. It's a book that's useful and interesting to anyone -- just as a book about a shipbuilder is interesting to more than just other shipbuilders.

One of the themes of the book is that a professional writer should make money in different ways, and the book itself provides a perfect example: it's collected from postings on Whatever, the author's blog, so there was no "extra" work in writing most of the book. The flip side of this is that Scalzi really does work for a living. I'm someone who has to have a cup of tea and a lie down after I've written a few paragraphs, so to me Scalzi is terrifyingly productive, averaging thousands of words a day, hundreds of thousands of words a year. Scalzi makes it very clear that a professional writer really is more than someone who takes their laptop to a coffee shop. The book gives a clear picture of the working life of a writer in the first five years of the twenty-first century.

More than just a book about writing, this is a book about being in the world. It's no surprise that being honest and cooperative with the people you work with, relentless in the face of rejection, and calm in the face of criticism, is less stressful and more effective than the alternative. What raises this book above the level of advice books about kindergarten is that it's a clear exposition of what works for one successful writer. A sample of one might not be statistically significant, but it's easy to understand. And Scalzi makes it abundantly clear that the specifics that work for him may not work for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not a book of advice on how to write; rather it's a very personable look at the business of writing. The articles this book is composed of were taken from Scalzi's Whatever blog, spanning the years 2001-2006, and as such form an extended snapshot of his writing life and its progression through new forms of writing.

First a disclaimer: I'm one of those who reads Scalzi's blog on a near daily basis, and have been since mid-2006, as I find it to be both entertaining and informative on a much wider range of topics than just the writing business. Because of this, I had read a few of the articles of this book previously, and had a pretty good idea of most of the salient points that he raises within these pages. Which makes the accomplishments of this book even more impressive, as even with this prior knowledge I found myself very much absorbed, entertained, and informed by this material. Scalzi has a very easy, relaxed, and comprehensible style of writing, frequently leavened by touches of humor, that makes for very quick and easy reading, while still maintaining a very high level of information content.

The content here is good material for any aspiring or currently published writer, as Scalzi covers everything from why you really, really shouldn't tick off your editor to just how much money you can reasonably expect to make from various forms of writing.
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Format: Hardcover
You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop won't teach you anything about how to write great stories, articles, and books other than the most important thing - you have to write to be a writer. Over the years he's compiled blog posts and articles into this volume and it's quintessential Scalzi, blunt and dogmatic.

I'm taking my volume and mailing it to a friend who's decided to become a writer because better than I can ever do, Scalzi debunks the mythology and rose-colored dreams of the relaxed writer sitting at coffee shops and waxing poetic on the soul and the purity of art. Writing is a business and if you don't approach it as a business, you're going to be a hungry writer.
The most valuable lesson in the book is about selling your writing. If you want to be a paid writer, you have to write what people (editors) will buy. That lesson applies to articles and novels alike. It's great to write what's in your heart and it's great to be true to your vision of art, but if you want to receive royalty checks perhaps you should look at what's selling and also do whatever adjustments and rewrites your editor suggests. Good advice.

Another eye-opening recommendation he gives is not to quit your day job. Further he explains that rather than quitting your job look at it as freedom to write without the constraints of having to pay your bills from your writing output. This is a great way to view it. Give yourself some time to learn the trade, figure out the markets, and explore your talents.

If I have one knock it's more with the format than the content. Because it's an assemblage of posts, there's a lot of repetition. The upside to that is that you can open the book to any page and instantly get good advice and interesting insights. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to write professionally.

- CV Rick, May 2008
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