WRITING WITHOUT RULES—How to Write & Sell a Novel Without Guidelines, Experts, or (Occasionally) Pants

By Jeff Somers (2018) Paperback, 247 pages Writer’s Digest

For anyone who has ever thought of writing a book, this is for you.

“People really do believe that writing is easy; this is why everyone assumes they will someday write a book themselves, when they have the time.”

But writing is continuous hard work. Yet it is greatly undervalued. Writers struggle to get paid well and endure writing for free just to gain exposure or a byline. Unlike rigid how-to books, Jeff tells you all the different ways he tried, failed, and succeeded in publishing and selling his work.

The title says it all. Jeff is a veteran US writer who has done all kinds of writing to eke a living doing what he loves. He frankly admits that unlike other self-proclaimed gurus, there is no one way to writing success. It’s a mix of various factors unique to that writer.

“[T[here are those in the writing world who try to make writing and publishing a novel seem as mysterious and complicated as possible because it burnishes their accomplishments—but it’s really much simpler than all that….[I]f someone as disorganized and borderline incompetent as me can write and sell novels, so can you.”

Jeff has published nine novels, over 30 short stories, book reviews, and articles. He is a Contributing Editor for Writer’s Digest with a blog on the writing craft at http://www.jeffreysomers.com/blather/.

To supplement his income between books, Jeff shares how he freelanced as an anonymous a blogger for a content mill and as a catalog copywriter for sex toys. He warns against scams and gives good sources to find writing work on p. 204. “Freelance writing not only pays the bills, it promotes your fiction.”

Jeff says you can’t sell books directly on social media but it raises your profile and puts you in front of other people. He shares his three steps to social media domination (“As long as we agree that, in this context, the word domination translates to “mild success,” we’ll be fine.”)

With self-deprecating humor, Jeff shares his writing experience with funny footnotes and unconventional tips. Just write and keep writing. You don’t need a special place, time, process, or inspiration. You only need an idea and something to write with. Ideas are rampant so just finish your book!

“An important aspect of pursuing writing as a career is persistence, coupled with the ability to absorb rejection.”

His detailed table of contents and index tells you how to write your novel (plot, character, dialogue, revision, and writer’s block); then sell it (agent, lawyers, contracts, publishers, getting paid, self-publishing, self-promotion, social media).

When some writers make it, they act like they are gifted. Jeff doesn’t.

“Genius or not, you have to do the work. You have to accumulate the years. You have to get the rejections, learn the lessons, and develop the skills.”

This is the most entertaining and current writing book I have read so far. Every writer should read this if you’re serious about your career. At the very least, you’ll have fun laughing at Jeff’s expense.

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