The Literary Handyman: Tips on Writing from Someone Who’s Been There by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

The Literary HandymanReviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Writers, rejoice, for here is the book for you! Danielle Ackley-McPhail, the author of many books like Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, writer of short stories, and editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series and No More Dreams, with this book offers up her considerable hard-earned expertise to help you, too, learn the basic skills and handy tips and tricks that will help make you into better writers, and get you published! After all, how will the readers of the world know how brilliant your word choices are and how scintillating your prose unless your writing is published for them to purchase, read, and marvel about? Recognition (well, money, too) is the ultimate goal writers aspire to, and The Literary Handyman: Tips On Writing Form Someone Who’s Been There is an excellent guidebook to enabling you to reach your goal.

From the front cover of this book on, this book rocks, and if you enjoy writing, there will be many topics the author will discuss that will definitely be of interest to you. Who wouldn’t want to be depicted as a cartoon (if it’s not a terribly unflattering one, anyway)? Danielle Ackley-McPhail is, on the cover of the book, and she’s dress in the garb of a working person/editor, with a carpenter’s style belt around her waist. Along with a couple of tools, like a hammer and a screwdriver, she has in pouches two of the most important tools for aspiring writers: a dictionary and a thesaurus. It doesn’t matter how much of an expert on the English language or grammar you are; both of these tools are vital and indispensable for writers and editors (yes, even with Spell Check).

Some of the topics the book goes over are learning more about effective dialogue, the differences between major publishers and small presses, self-promoting, naming characters, and avoiding procrastination. The last of these might be the most important, because if you keep putting off writing and putting it on the back-burner, who knows what masterpieces you might be depriving the world of? And, if you don’t have your writing published, who knows how much fame, money, and attendant glory you might be missing out on?

Danielle Ackley-McPhail, writes great short stories and novels, and her husband, Mike McPhail, also writes and edits wonderful MilSF (Military Science Fiction) stories; but, no one would know that, if they hadn’t first put pen to paper, or first typed it up on a typewriter or computer keyboard. If you want to make your dreams become a reality, you must take the first step, and record your words for posterity. And, if you want to reach the widest audience possible, you want to write as impressively as possible, and avoid pitfalls that other potential authors make that turn off their readers. Even choosing similar names for your characters, the author points out, can be something that is irritating to readers, because it can cause confusion. You want to create characters that are easily distinguishable between each other, and similar names can serve to work against this, and create confusion.

One of the most difficult things about writing to do is to break into getting published. No matter how excellent your writing might be, who’s to know unless others can see and read it? The second half of Danielle’s book offers up incredibly useful information that gives advice to let you one day see your finished work in print, whether you write short stories or novels or both. The business side of writing might not seem to be very glamorous, but it is crucial to know about if you want to have your writing published. In this section, you’ll learn about the various writing markets that are available, submitting to anthologies, and promoting yourself, among other topics, and also how to best handle (ugh!) rejection letters. Even people like J.K. Rowling was rejected several times before her Harry Potter novels were finally published and became wildly successful, so don’t take it too personal and become disheartened–everyone at some point gets them.

The Literary Handyman: Tips On Writing From Someone Who’s Been There is an important tool that will teach you valuable information to enable you to become a better writer, and a published one. Danielle’s first-hand knowledge of the ins and outs of both sides of the publishing business makes this book stand out from the multitude of others offering to help make you a better writer. If you enjoy writing, and have dreams of turning your writing into a career and earn money doing it, then I highly recommend this book to you!

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