Sunday, April 9, 2017

Book Review: Write Naked by Jennifer Probst

I read Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst, which was published by Writer's Digest. My thoughts are discussed below.



The best way to connect with your real self is to get naked. Strip your soul bare and throw it out there. Don’t try to make sense of it until the ink dries, because you can always go back and tweak, tidy things up, or edit, which we’ll talk about later.


I usually have a system set up for how I review things, a bit of good, the bad, the verdict, but for this book, I want to approach it a little differently. Off of my chest, I'll say that there are two things that I wish had been done differently, the "Writers Are Crazy" chapter didn't really add anything, and one of my own personal issues is dealing with how people present mental illness or even joke around with that nutty writer stereotype. Similarly, I think if you're looking for a book that's romance specific or heavy on craft specifically dedicated to writing romance, then this might not be the book for you.

However, I think the strength of Probst's book is in how she explains and then exemplifies her writing philosophy of "being naked." Not only does she remind the reader when talking about character building, sex scenes, theme and emotion how important stripping your soul and, by extension, the characters' souls bare, but Probst also is honest about her own career. In chapter five, "The Write Path," she details the highs and lows of her career and is extremely honest with how hitting The New York Times with The Marriage Bargain was both a blessing and a curse. I've read a lot of books on writing and memoirs on writing, but I've rarely read one where the author is honest with the pressure and writer's block (or "sewage" as Probst calls it) that comes once an author has obtained success. She's honest about how this is a hard, isolating job every day where one has to show up and that's advice that transcends the romance genre and should make this book a must read for any author, aspiring or already published.

Moreover, the chapter called "Trademarks of Bestselling Authors" contains great nuggets of advice from a plethora of romance bestsellers she interviewed on craft, marketing, and all other aspects of the job. I think that section will serve as something readers will refer back to advice and quick inspiration. I know I'll be referring to it often, and I find the honest advice and perspectives of many people who have been there helpful.

Finally, for me, the chapters on Theme and on "Don't Cheat the Marriage" or don't jump from a WIP (work in progress) to a shiny new manuscript will help me a lot. I do have a habit of wanting to jump to something new mid-manuscript and she has exercises to work on to keep one from doing that. Similarly, while I'm always aware of theme, I think that her chapter on it is making me reevaluate what's in my series and what's a deeper thread among all my works.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I think that while it doesn't offer revolutionary craft advice, the fact that it's so honest about the daily struggles as (any type) of writer and is naked in that honesty is what puts Probst's book head and shoulders above most "how to write" books I've read. Definitely check it out, and refer often to the exercises and chapters that work for you or address your weaker points. Also, remember to write down to the bones, to write naked!

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