I've read a lot of books about writing. I don't really read the "writer's advice" books anymore, because I don't need help with grammar and punctuation and I don't need to be told why it's bad to start your story with your protagonist waking up from a dream and examining herself in the mirror. But I like reading books by writers about writing. Of course I loved Stephen King's On Writing
, and I also liked John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist
, even though if I ever do become a novelist, I'll be nothing like John Gardner (or Stephen King, for that matter).
Nick Mamatas is a professional writer. The traditional kind — the starving, write-anything-that-pays-the-rent kind who will rub your nose in your MFA aspirations and your bourgeois laptop-at-the-coffee-shop pretensions. Starve Better
is a collection of essays and blog posts that is about half writing advice (or "advice") and half advice on how to make a living as a writer who has to scrounge up rent money this week. Mamatas has been a writing instructor, he's ground out articles for content mills and tiny, niche magazines, he's written a couple of books, and he also wrote a rather infamous piece called The Term Paper Artist
, which I was surprised to reread in this book since I'd read it years ago and hadn't realized that was Nick Mamatas.
These are all interesting, entertaining, and unromanticized short pieces about the writing life. Mamatas tries to be a curmudgeon, but it's obvious he really does love writing, the art and the craft. He also loves taking the air out of dilettantes and blowhards and mocking the mockable. He has something of an online rep, not being afraid to piss people off by saying their writing probably sucks and they have bad taste.
If you really are one of those starving writers who means to make a living writing and aren't too proud to scrounge and hustle for whatever freelance jobs you can get, Starve Better
seems to offer quite a bit of useful advice, though the publishing landscape is changing so quickly that as Mamatas admits in several of the articles, any advice about current markets will quickly become obsolete.