Top critical review
Not instructions I'd want to live or write by
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2018
Obviously a lot of people have gotten value from this book, and so there must be something useful to it that I'm not seeing. But I personally found it to be the opposite of what I was personally looking for in a book ostensibly about writing instruction. I kept waiting for the writing instruction to occur, something about hooks, plotting, structure, POV, voice, succinct prose, different expectations for each genre, or something, anything. I eventually realized the author had no intentions of providing any specific advice, so I relaxed into it being a book about living creatively with personality disorders. I feel sympathy for people who struggle. I know it's not their fault. I want to show them love.
And, I'd be interested to read about someone's unbalanced emotional state, sure, but not if it's projected onto me. I didn't identity with her descriptions about what I will feel as an author. It's not promoted as a book about her life as much as a book predicting what "you" will feel. It's prescriptive. It's targeted to the reader. It's saying this is what we will inevitably feel. And I think that is a dangerous practice. People tend to believe authority figures, and they experience what they believe they are expected to feel, via a kind of placebo effect. What our subconscious is told our subconscious can believe. What she details feeling is anything but pleasant or productive.
Also, since it's listed as being about how to write, untrained readers might actually believe this is all you have to do - write messy, write passionate, write diligent, and apparently don't ever plan out the plot according to some tried and true schemata, according to research about what readers enjoy. Even experimental writers need to learn the rules in order to break them meaningfully. I've talked to readers of this book who said it threw them off for a long wasted time of writing because they gleaned from it that all you had to do was write random words without consideration for putting the correct plot points in the proper location in the Act structure.
As well as being a manuscript editor, I've taught writing with universities for fourteen years. My fiction writing students are happy with my classes, and they make great improvement. I don't feel that's a bad thing. But this author boasts about how unhappy she makes her students by insisting to them that they will experience what she did, and she makes fun of them for not commenting and instead asking about getting an agent. That was somewhat a little funny if I looked at it from her POV, but it was the only moment I saw as remotely humorous. I read it as a desperately sad book overall.
There is some cautionary advice not to let the ego get too involved, to strengthen the self esteem rather than depending on book feedback to provide it. If she had provided some proven, specific psychological methods of doing that, and if she demonstrated that she had that balance, herself, and what that feels like, I believe it could have been more worthwhile.