On bestselling author Chuck Wendig's book on writing -- Jen Doktorski

Chuck Wendig. Besting selling and award-winning author of many books including Black River Orchard, which releases today, also known for his blog terribleminds.com.

Around our house, he’s known as The Great Uniter.

Cashew vs. almond butter, open windows vs. AC, mountain hikes vs. beach walks, we have many differing opinions at our house. True, we all love to read. But not until recently has there been much overlap in the Venn diagram of our bookish tastes.

But one day, during the many hours of togetherness during the pandemic (which, by the way, Wendig practically predicted) my husband suggested a book to our daughter. Wanderers. He handed her the hefty tome by Wendig and I could tell the challenge of its 780 pages appealed to her. That’s when the magic happened.

Anyone with teenaged kids knows that sometimes you have to be satisfied with a passing “Hey” while they’re en route to their bedrooms in favor of their preferred methods of communication i.e. scrolling through TikTok and tagging their friends. Group chats. DMs.

So it brought actual tears to my eyes to hear my husband and daughter saying things like “Did you get to the part where…” and “What did you think about…” and “Hurry and up and get to Chapter Sixty-Two so we can talk about....” Conversations! Not texts from behind her closed bedroom door. Real, honest-to-goodness discussions about this book. Like I said, The Great Uniter.

The three of us also follow Chuck Wendig on IG. He takes great pics of bugs, birds, dogs, an occasional fox, and lattes. One day back in June he posted this.

He teased it with this.


And this.


I was in. I even posted that in the comments. “Sold! Preordered.” He “liked” it, or whomever curates his page did. But I like to think it was Chuck.

The timing was perfect, I’d recently split with my agent of 14 years and had been in a total writing and reading funk as I sat on the precipice of diving back into the querying trenches. Faced with what I knew would be lots of one-sided correspondence, I was questioning why it is I do what I do only to receive disheartening correspondence in the form of royalty statements that say “No payment is due at this time” or worse, an insulting check for $23.97.

Adding to this funk was the realization that I’d earned more for the first magazine article I’d ever sold—to Cosmo, two decades ago—than I had on my latest YA novel. A novel that took me approximately three years of my life to write. I would have joined the writer’s strike if I’d had a job to walk away from.

I needed to know how not to destroy myself!

This book was the answer. It is as informative as it is hilarious. I laughed out loud reading (spoiler alert) the story he told about his first real writing job. Sometimes I say I LOLed without really meaning I LOLed, but in this case both the dog and husband came running to see what the LOLing was about.

I was laughing too hard to tell them.

One of my college writing professors thought reading craft books was a waste, that it was time better spent writing. I suppose I could have said that about his class, or any writing class, but you know, I wasn’t so bold or as quick with a comeback then. He made an exception for William Zinsser’s On Writing, which I have to admit, I happen to like very much as well. Probably because I started out as a journalist and magazine article writer. Anyway, the point is, for years the opinion of my college mentor colored my own. I kept thinking I should be writing, not reading books about writing. But then I grew up, got to a point where I’m writing full-time (only because my spouse is gainfully employed), and realized he, and in turn I, was wrong.

Some of my best mantras have come from craft books. Butt in chair. Squeeze out the water words. Scenes are linked by cause and effect. Conflict is how we learn about our characters. Others, like Save the Cat and The Plot Whisperer, have helped me with structure. Still others have provided me with rules.

What I love, love, love about Chuck Wendig’s book is that it breaks some of those rules. Guess what? I’m using adverbs again. Sparingly, but using them! Above all else, this book made me laugh. At myself. At the publishing industry. At the absurdity of the writing process. And because of that, I felt less alone. That’s huge.

Don't let writing destroy you. Buy the book. Follow him on IG. Sign up for his newsletter. You won’t be disappointed.


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