Philip Athans' The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps To Writing and Publishing Your Best Seller is hilarious. It's filled with great advice that I think can be applied to writing any story, not just science fiction and fantasy. A lot of what Athans said, I knew, but it was nice to be reminded.
This is the first "How-To" book on writing I've ever read. It was a gift and I was happy to receive it. The steps are six, but they are not simple. They are broken down and then broken down again. The steps are summed up at the end of each section, but if that's all you read or remembered, you wouldn't be getting the full benefit of this book.
I think this book awakened in me some sort of fascination with “how-to” books. (Though, I wonder if it’s just a way to procrastinate with my own writing. Do I actually need to read them?) Before I was finished with Athans, I entered to win The Fiction Writer's Handbook on Goodreads and I actually won it. It’s less of a “how-to” book and more of a reference, but I plan on going through it soon. I’ve also seen another contest on Goodreads for yet another book, and I downloaded a [temporarily] free ebook (You Are A Writer) on my Kindle app. I also have a strong urge to read Stephen King’s On Writing. Except for the King book, which I also want to read because he’s one of my favourite authors, I wonder if I need to read these instruction manuals on writing. I don’t know…
In the end though, I really enjoyed Athans’ The Guide To Writing Science-Fiction and Fantasy. It holds a lot of great advice, layered with humour. He uses real-life examples of some prolific authors. I also really enjoyed the short story by R.A. Salvatore at the end. I like how Salvatore and Athans dissect the story so the readers/writers can learn why it was rejected (even though at this point Salvatore was already writing about Drizzt). I think the lesson is that any writer can still have their story rejected, even if they are already established and/or famous. One of the most important things I felt from this book was encouragement. Athans says that if you’re a writer, then write. If you can be persuaded to not write, then you aren’t/weren’t a writer. Keep writing. Don’t do it for the money, because, like him, many published authors still have day jobs. Do it because you love writing.