I don’t often come across very tiny paperbacks, but ‘Writers Rehab’ by D.B. Gilles is certainly one of them. The size chosen is no doubt so you can keep it in your pocket for when you suffer a particular aliment called ‘writer’s block’ or just doubt about your writing ability so you can get treatment anywhere. You know, that period of time when your creative talent seems to have deserted you and there’s a deadline looming and you’re out and about looking for inspiration. For those who don’t have the creative vibe, most ideas come from connecting to something or I often find, seeing some absurdity no one else has spotted.
Gilles provides 13 steps to get you out of that slump. I know it says 12 on the cover, but the thirteenth is to help comedy writers find their laughs. In his way, Gilles examines why you became a writer in the first place. He rightly points out that unlike more goal-orientated work, you write because you like writing rather than as a means to make money, which is really a side-product of your creative urges. If you are lucky to get paid, then it’s a bonus. Occasionally, he gives you a slap across the cheek and a dose of reality about the writing industry so you keep some perspective and that most writers are in the same boat, unpaid and loved only by the small number of people who read their work and write to the small press publication that they liked it. No wonder writers react most to reviewers. It’s the only constant in their writing careers even if they don’t always like what they/we say.
Although the implication is for all kinds of writers, there is a certain orientation towards scriptwriters but as that is also the publisher’s orientation that shouldn’t be too surprising. However, whatever your medium, you will find something here to consider. I was a little concerned about some of the titles implying God but as Gelles swears like a trooper occasionally as well, it’s the implication of who you scream out for when you’re having a problem.
Now where shall we start? In many ways, Gelles is actually explaining things I’ve used myself in the past with other people. Then again, I do what he calls ‘mentoring’ and I call ‘motivating’ and if I say walking across the crater of a live volcano will improve your writing, you might well try it. I haven’t said do it yet, so stay by your computer and learn from each piece you write as to what needs improving. It’s only when you stop learning that you start hacking things out willy-nilly and stop caring.
This neatly segues to Step 2 where there is reference to who mentored your writing in the first place which I took with some wry amusement considering the number of people whom I’ve assisted in the past, present and, no doubt, the future. Then again, who mentors the mentors? From my perspective, you really do have to enjoy writing for its own sake, not for ego and really not for other people. If you can’t write for your own enjoyment and as a means to fill time in a pleasant way then you shouldn’t be a writer in the first place.
A lot of the points specifically target writers who haven’t made their mark yet. This is hardly surprising because they/we vastly out-number those who have sold books. Gelles makes telling points about making characters interesting and ensuring they develop over a story. Having them unchanged by the decisions they make is the main way to make any character look flat. I took it for granted that every writer talks to themselves as they enact the story but that might just be me.
For such a small book, I’ve had a lot to say on just a few points. There’s a lot more in this book than that. If you have doubts about your writing, I think it will make you think as to whether you should continue. On the other hand, if you want to be shaken up and reminded you write because you like expressing your ideas then the tips as to what to do about it might well help you get your act together. For me, because I do so much of this kind of thing already, it just affirms that I’ve been doing mentoring for all the right reasons.
(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 128 page A7 sized paperback. Price: $10.74 (US), £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61593-156-9)
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