- Paperback: 186 pages
- Publisher: Apex Book Company (March 19, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0984553584
- ISBN-13: 978-0984553587
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,707,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life
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About the Author
Nick Mamatas is the author of three-and-a-half novels, more than seventy short stories, and hundreds of feature articles, and is also an editor and anthologist. His fiction has been nominated for the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild awards and translated into German, Italian, and Greek; his editorial work with Clarkesworld earned the magazine World Fantasy and Hugo award nominations. Nick's reportage, short stories, and essays have appeared in venues such as Razor, Asimov's Science Fiction, Silicon Alley Reporter, the Village Voice, The Smart Set, The Writer, Poets & Writers and anthologies including Supernatural Noir and Lovecraft Unbound. He teaches at Western Connecticut State University in the MFA program in Creative and Professional Writing, was a visiting writer at Lake Forest College and the University of California, Riverside's Palm Desert Campus, and runs writing classes in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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In that sense, Starve Better is less a book about learning to write than unlearning the things writers are told everywhere else. In the first section, The Book of Lies, Mamatas does offer a solid foundation for approaching short fiction, but the parts I found most interesting were his attempts to dispell the myths that keep us from writing better. For me personally, a weird way I can tell a book on writing is good is that, while reading, it makes me wish it was something I'd found years ago. Even the best advice doesn't have to be completely new, but sort of clarifies ideas or problems you might have been aware of, only peripherally.
And, yes, the issue of "who" is giving advice is also a factor. The author of multiple novels and the editor Haikasoru, Mamatas offers a rare degree of personal and professional experience as one of the rarest things known to the industry--a "successful" noncommercial author (whatever that means). His take on the subject is refreshing and comes from a very unique persective, which I found especially interesting with Sensation (his most recent novel) still fresh in my mind.
This book is literally that good.
Most writing books have an aspirational tone: "if you follow these ten steps you will be a writing superstar like the author, and writing success is just one lollipop or pony tail away, but only if you buy just one more book". Readers tend to come away from these self-help manuals feeling good about themselves, and then writing nothing. If you're an idealist looking for someone to make you feel better about your lack of productivity, then Starve Better is not for you. But if you're a realist who is genuinely interested in finding a way to make money in an industry that is about as unstable as Middle Eastern diplomacy, then Starve Better is a must read.
Nick doesn't sugarcoat anything. He objectively outlines the challenges of making a living as a writer, and provides actionable advice on how to maximize one's writing income in a shrinking industry. He makes no promises and readily acknowledges that what worked for him might not work for everyone. This approach is a refreshing one, particularly at a time when many other writers are issuing ridiculous fiats like "use no adverbs" and "only use 'said' for attribution tags" that only serve to homogenize writing rather than experiment with language in new and innovative ways. Nick's book scoffs at such writing fundamentalism, and takes a much more nuanced approach to the craft. This book doesn't provide cook-cutter recipes for success, it forces the writer to develop his or her own recipe.
This book isn't for sheep. It's for wolves, and wolves eat well.
This is the sort of writing advice book I've been seeking for years. Most writing advice books either focus on the basics - to outline or not to outline; how to structure a paragraph; how to make a scene come alive using sensory details, etc - or on inspiring the writer rather than instructing her (Bird by Bird; etc). Both of those are essential to a growing writer, of course, but only to a point. Mamatas presumes you've read those already and starts off in the deep end.
If I have any complaint, it's that in some articles the prefatory matter takes up nearly as much space as the article itself. Also, a greater focus on long fiction would have been more useful to me, and I suspect other professional writers as well.
Useful for writers, and a bargain at its ebook price. Recommended.
But on the whole it's solid stuff, told without recourse to mollycoddling or sympathy. Write good or die, as someone else once put it.