I picked up a book at the library a couple weeks ago that looked like something a bit different from the usual reference book on the writing craft. Writing With The Master by Tony Vanderwarker turned out to be amusing and both discouraging and encouraging, also to have a few gold nuggets in how one goes about writing a novel.
We follow Vanderwarker's journey as he writes a suspense novel with the help of author, John Grisham. They live near one another and had a friendship going before Mr. Grisham offered to be a mentor to help Tony write his book. Tony, a one-time ad writer, had already written several novels but none had been published. Self-publishing does not ever come into play with him, he wants to do it the way other famed authors have--through a publishing house via an agent.
Who wouldn't be excited if John Grisham offered to serve as a mentor? If it happened to be me, I'd give very serious thought to the offer before accepting. Acceptance means a hard road ahead, which is exactly what Tony found. Every time he thinks he's come up with a masterpiece of an outline that John will love, he's shot down by the myriad criticisms from his mentor. Again and again, Tony rewrites the outline. How can he give up and disappoint his mentor?
We watch as he follows one frustrating path after another, as he interacts with his wife about his writing, and also another important part of his life as a volunteer for the Piedmont Environmental Council, an environmental agency. Any writer will wince at the thought that Tony writes seven outlines for his book, receives critiques from author Grisham that send him back to the drawing board over and over. Despite the harsh critiques he receives, the two remain friends.
I'm not going to spoil the conclusion of the book for you, but any writer contemplating writing a novel would do well to read this book. It's entertaining, filled with humorous self-jabs, but honest in what it takes to become a published novelist. Like many other reader/reviewers, I didn't find enough about John Grisham in the book to satisfy my curiousity about him. But yes, I did get a picture of how hard the man works to turn out one bestseller after another. At this point, he doesn't need the money so he's got to do it for the love of birthing a book from conception to delivery.
There are little tips from Grisham throughout the text, things Tony derives from their lunchtime conversations and the notes scribbled by the author on Tony's outlines. I would have liked to see a compiled list of all of these tips somewhere in the final pages of the book but there wasn't one. If you read the book, I'd suggest keeping a pad and pencil handy so you can jot down a tip when you read it.
Is this book going to help you write a novel? I doubt it but it will help you decide if you want to give it a try or not. It will help you determine if you have the drive, the passion, the stamina it takes. I found Writing With The Master to be an entertaining read. Check out further info at Amazon.