Scalzi on Writing

When you hear so much about blogging being good advertising for your writing, it’s ironic to find a book that serves as a great advertisement for a blog. Consider John Scalzi‘s collection of writing-related posts, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to the Coffeeshop: Scalzi on Writing . It’s a great title and the title entry itself is amusing, opinionated, and facile–all things that make Scalzi fun (and occasionally infuriating) to read. The first half of the book has the more interesting posts, where he discusses writing and the business of writing. The most interesting of all is the The Money Entry.

Scalzi writes frankly about how he makes a living, and at that point, fiction-related income had very little to do with money. He gives the numbers and a rough breakdown of how much corporate, marketing, and non-fiction writing pays his bills. And he gives the even more important number of how much writing that takes: 20-30 K a week, or roughly 5000 words a day. When you’re reading the book, you can turn the page and move on to the next entry. When you read the blog, you can get further, generally well-informed discussion. You also get the Addendum, where suddenly royalties make writing fiction not just a labor of love. For now.

While generally interesting, most of the first half doesn’t get nearly as specific as this. He gives general advice about the writing life, although it’s hard to say how much you can learn about writing from someone who has a natural gift for writing the way he talks. He says writing became hard work, but he doesn’t say exactly how. He says you have to keep room in your life for the writing you care about, but he doesn’t say exactly how he does it. He says he has written things he’s proud of that few have seen but somehow I missed seeing the titles.

The second half is filled with opinionated rants about some things that never change (like the naivete of young writers) and some things that that were old news the first time he wrote about them ( like the various tempests in the teapot of the writing world and the tea thimble of the SF writing world). I suppose I’ve saved some time by not being tempted to look up the original entries, because I know I would get sucked in to reading his blog for an hour. Scalzi has got to be the only writer I enjoy more when I read his work online. That’s his real gift.