Synopsis: Discover the lost art of great writing. In the digital age, people have begun to believe this talent obsolete, that writing is unworthy of study beyond the basics. This highly practical treatise on the four key principles of writing is the ultimate guide to transforming your writing and unleashing your inner artist.
Author: Peter Yang is an award-winning writer, public speaker, and eternal student. He is Canadian and currently working on a startup to create a user-generated content app.
Publisher: TCK Publishing and Marketing is a small independent press. I was approached to review a book not in line with my blog, but they were willing to send a different book from their catalogue in exchange for a review.
Cover: The cover of this book is in keeping with most other works of a similar nature. Namely the title in a large font, a subtitle/phrase in a smaller font, with some sort of writing implement to add visual interest.
Format: This book is split into five parts. There is a section for each of the four principles —Economy, Transparency, Variety, Harmony— the author says all good writing consists of, followed by the author’s Meditations (anything that did not fit into the previous sections.)
Writing Style: While from a technical standpoint it could be considered written well, his style is in direct contradiction to the advice he is giving. The author even says himself “the slightest inconsistency can throw off an entire audience”, which is the overall issue I found this book to have. For example, one of his subsections is to Write to the Layman and yet despite my university education (studying literature, creative writing, and publishing) I occasionally had to look up words I was not familiar with.
Tone: I would not consider myself to be the “immature” or “amateur” writer the author keeps disparaging, yet I found some of Yang’s phrasing to be confrontational. What I took from this book is that if you do not agree with Yang’s belief of how to write, you are essentially a “fool” and “by writing in any other way, you are doing a disservice to yourself and the artistic ideal of truth”. He does say that “instead of dogmatically holding to [the rules], aim to tailor preexisting guidelines to match your particular writing needs”, however he was referring to the esteemed Chicago Manual of Style as opposed to his own works which is what I would apply that to.
Content: This book consists of essentially the same information we are taught in public school. Had it not been for the big words, strange analogies, and the occasional error I would suggest this could potentially be used in a high school refresher course teaching basic writing skills for non-fiction works such as essays or articles. Yang touches on a few topics I wish more people had paid attention to in class as they are technical issues I frequently run into as an editor– I’m looking at you em dash!– however he did not expand on those as he could have (such as proper use of en dashes or ellipses perhaps?).
DiY: Write a list of your top ten most important life skills. How much do you value each skill? Did you include writing, and where did it fall on your list? Now consider how improving your writing ability might improve your life. Does this affect your list in any way?
Unfulfilled Promise: I assumed this book would give advice on how to improve intermediate (or higher) skills that could be applied to any format. Instead it comprised of writing basics for nonfiction, and even those were not necessarily delved into enough.
Personal Thoughts: I was troubled when the author says to “ask yourself what justifies your writing’s existence”. Most aspiring and even established authors can struggle with confidence, doubting their own talent, and find difficulty in believing anyone will want to read what they have to say. This demand does nothing but discourage someone from writing and could silence a voice from sharing something the world needs to hear.
However, he is correct that an aspiring writer must have a “willingness to make mistakes, embarrass yourself, and acknowledge your shortcomings… the writer who is willing to fail will at least have a chance”. You must be willing to face rejection, because you will likely get a number of letters telling you no before you will find an agent and/or publisher who does want your book.
Quote: If I speak truthfully, I should expect you to speak truthfully.
Verdict: Despite being approximately fifty pages, it took me a couple of days to read this book because it failed to hold my attention. I also found it difficult to take seriously as a treatise given the author does not follow his own advice, and I disagreed with as much information as I agreed with. I would hesitate to recommend this book as I do not feel using “this book as your qualitative compass, you will be able to distinguish good writing from bad writing”. I have to admit I struggled with writing this review, however I could only tell the truth as I see it…