Monday, February 20, 2012

Joy Writing by Kenn Amdahl: A Book Review

Joy Writing
By Kenn Amdahl
Clearwater Publishing Company, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0962781520
Trade Paperback $12.95
Kindle ebook $9.99

I wasn’t sure what to expect of a writing book from the author of There Are No Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings and Calculus for Cats (with Jim Loats, Ph.D.). There was nothing to fear. Joy Writing was fun to read, full of meaningful quotes to keep my highlighter busy, and a solid “how Kenn does it” approach to writing advice.

Much of Amdahl’s book addresses writing “rules” we’ve heard before, but he puts his own spin on these writerly pronouncements, often cautioning us against overkill. The point is to know the rules, then (referring in this case to character development): “Do what you want, just don’t do it accidentally.” Later in the book, Amdahl says, “There are no correct procedures, including the suggestions I’ve made. For every ‘rule’ you learn, you’ll find a writer who ignores it and yet produces compelling art.”

When pursuing the joy of writing, Amdahl insists we consciously write horrible first drafts, like slinging mud against the wall. His warning: never show these first efforts to anyone. He wants to spare us the discouragement that might follow a negative critique, but even more, remind us that, “Praise erodes your motivation to improve.” Will we work as hard to make our end product better, or slack off because feedback has already declared our manuscript to be acceptable?

Joy Writing entertained me while pushing me to think about writing (and getting critiqued) in a different way. The examples the author uses to illustrate his points are well-chosen from a wide variety of authors and genres. Amdahl’s book is well-written and well-edited. If I have any criticism at all, it’s that the book is too short. I wanted more of the author's humor and thoughtful observations.

Since Joy Writing is self-published through the author’s Clearwater Publishing Company, Inc., I asked Kenn what writers need to know about the self-publishing option. He responded:

“I learned both Quark and InDesign and I format my own books, including the covers. When I'm done, I usually take them to an expert to tweak them. Because I've done ninety percent of the work, this is much cheaper and usually results in a professional looking book. Most self publishers just hire a designer.

As to the pitfalls of self publishing, there are two: 1. People want to release their babies into the world before they're ready. Literature is a competitive blood sport; hone your skills before stepping into the arena. 2. They underestimate how much marketing is required. Business isn't a sport, it's war.”

For more about Kenn Amdahl, visit the author page at Clearwater Publishing and his blog, The Wordguise Alembic: Where the oxymoron meets the ham sandwich.

Joy Writing can be purchased at online booksellers as a trade paperback and as an ebook. To read more excellent reviews and book blurbs, visit the Joy Writing page at the Clearwater Publishing website.

The author supplied an unedited advance copy, free of charge, for this book for review.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for this very helpful review. It's interesting to get Kenn Amdahl's perspective on dealing with issues such as rough drafts, marketing and so on.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Haven't heard of that one.