In Defense of How-To Writing Books

by bdhesse

It seems that a lot of the people I come across have very negative feelings towards how-to writing books. I can understand this to a degree: there is no right way to write, and there is no script to follow that will guarantee success. If you want to write for yourself and have no interest in publishing, then how-to writing books are likely not for you. But, if you do want to get published, then how-to writing books can be wonderful.

Personally, I’m a planner. When I decide to do something, I commit to it 100%. But I’m not willing to commit unless I know what to expect. When I was first thinking about writing to be published, I read a lot about what people had to say based on their experiences. Initially what I read was online. I also listened to writing excuses fairly regularly. I wanted to know what to expect so that I could gauge how I would deal with everything. I don’t like going into things blind. After I made the decision to write, I looked into picking up some how-to writing books. At first I focused on ones that talked about specific genres. This was because, as much as I’ve read a lot of books, I wanted to know what to expect in writing different types of books. I may not have learned how to write from these books, but that was never the point. What I did learn was what to expect people to expect. For example, I did not realise that, while most adult fiction is generally between 80,000-100,000 words in length, fantasy is generally between 100,000-120,000 words. I also didn’t realise that a lot of traditional publishers will reject an manuscript for being too long or too short without ever reading it. As such, word count actually matters to me. I also learned about sub-genres that I had never heard of before. Now that I have been writing for over a year, I don’t worry so much about those genre specific how-to writing books. Now I care more about ones that talk about building a writer’s platform, editing, and the publishing process. I have found a lot of great information from these books that have helped me along the way. Again, I don’t like to take chances. I want to know what to expect. I want to get published without having to do things the hard way. As such, these how-to books have helped a lot. They’ve made me feel more confident and they’ve made things far more clear.

For those of you who are fine with not knowing all the ins and outs, and who are fine with making a few mistakes along the way, it is fine to avoid using these how-to books. They don’t teach anything you can’t learn without them, they just make the learning quicker and easier. But if you are like me, especially if you have an anxiety disorder, I would definitely suggest checking out a few how-to writing books. They can help a lot.