For every writer who agonizes about writing with Word or Scrivener or Novlr, Somers has advice for you: “Good gawd, man. Sit your butt in a chair and write.” (FWIW, I use Scrivener. My family uses MS Office for everything except hanging the clothes.) I have to agree. In Writing Without Rules(WWR), he strips away the rules developed by big business, gatekeepers, and your writing club and gets you putting pen to paper.
Gatekeepers and Big Business aren’t all bad, and Somers doesn’t really address that. I know that, when I pick up a book published by Penguin, it will be at least readable and probably enjoyable. For that, they sift through a heavy slush pile and cull what doesn’t fit their business plan. That’s okay with me, and I don’t begrudge them making money. That’s the flip side of WWR.
In WWR, Somers mostly skewers the self-imposed rules the writing community shackles itself with, but don’t imagine that following his advice will get you magically published: you still have to write readable prose. The only magic I know of that confers this jelly drop of sunshine is hard work and lots and lots of writing and reading. And coffee.
Okay, It’s More Than Writing
But being a writer is so much more than writing, and that’s what Somers dissects. He wants to get you out of your own way to just start writing. He sifts through the whole shebang of plot, characters, and dialog and ends with lawyers and self-publishing. They all get the same treatment: Go for it. Without being in any way pedantic, Somers’ advice throughout WWR reminds me of my sage neuro when she talks about my brain: “If it works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, quit and do something else.” It’s that easy and that hard.
My take is that seasoned writers will enjoy the book. If you’ve spent years of your life and thousands of dollars earning your MFA, you might not. He makes light of most sacred cows, and, c’mon, I’ve taken plenty of lit courses and know that sacred cows are, well, sacred. He doesn’t care much about any of them. And he is VERY FOND of pretty bad jokes. Be prepared for both.
I sense that a brand new writer will still struggle with knowing what in the world to do next. But, if you write, and if you struggle with any part of the process, you’ll laugh and get a few pointers. The book is a whole lot more entertaining and has a lot more information than my nutshell, but I dish out my summary just the same: have fun, enjoy yourself, loosen your belt, and have at it. Stop when you’re done and watch the game.