Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer: The Artistry, Joy and Career of Storytelling

J. Michael Straczynski. BenBella, $17.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-950665-88-4

Screenwriter Straczynski (Becoming Superman) brings his 40 years of writing experience to this abrasive if intermittently insightful guide to the writing business. Aiming to deliver “accurate, practical, and advanced information that can’t be found inside the classroom or within the pages of baseline writing books,” Straczynski draws on his time writing scripts for Steven Spielberg and revitalizing such comic book franchises as Thor. These experiences give his tips real-world authority: his advice on how to pitch to a producer (start with an intro, describe the characters, then the story) and how to jump-start one’s daily writing routine (eschew perfection and just write a sentence, even if it’s awful) are practical and valuable. But his opinions can come across as dismissive—he rants against a Los Angeles Science Fiction Convention regular for not completing his manuscript——and his examples, such as explaining word-by-word the edits he made to previous drafts of this book end up being exhausting rather than exhaustive. Straczynski’s goal to “reach back and help the next person up the ladder” of a writing career is laudable, but the execution is flawed. Aspiring writers can look elsewhere. Agent: Emma Parry, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (June)