Review: The Writing Life: Reflections, Recollections, and a Lot of Cursing by Jeff Strand

cover of The Writing Life by Jeff StrandThe Writing Life: Reflections, Recollections, and a Lot of Cursing by Jeff Strand
Independently Published (December 2020)
276 pages; $11.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

If you’re a horror writer or even just a Stephen King fan, you’ve probably read his treatise on the writing biz, On Writing, multiple times. And for good reason, because it’s one of the best books on writing there is, imparted in that casual storyteller way only King has mastered. If I were to recommend only three writing books to prospective writers, On Writing would be the first book I’d recommend. A close second would be Zen in the Art of Writing, by the venerable Ray Bradbury.

The third book would be Jeff Strand’s The Writing Life. And quite frankly, it would be the most useful one of the bunch. The reason for that is simple: Jeff Strand has fought his way out of the trenches like the rest of us, which makes his advice — especially regarding the industry, the business, and the mistakes writers often make — far more practical than what’s found in the first two books I mentioned.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing either Bradbury or King. Their writing books are by turns inspirational and thought-provoking. But here’s the plain truth: in terms of writing careers, theirs are the exception, not the rule. Jeff Strand’s story — how he got his start in the business, his highs and lows, his triumphs and failures — is much closer to a realistic chronicle of “The Writing Life” as most of us experience it.

Strand’s book on writing is informative, funny, tongue-in-cheek, serious, and simply hilarious. At the same time, while I always read On Writing‘s career advice wistfully, thinking, “Oh, if only…” I eagerly devoured Strand’ advice, because either I found myself nodding in solidarity with him (especially when relating young writer gaffes), or thinking, “Wow. This is how it really is, for most of us. What Jeff has accomplished is, quite possibly, within my grasp.”

Strand doesn’t offer any guarantees of this, of course. Also, he doesn’t claim to offer a “silver bullet” to deliver writing success, or a sure-fire way to improve your craft. What he does offer is his experience navigating the confusing and surprising (and often nauseating) world of publishing, and there’s advice here for all kinds of writers. That, and it’s plenty of fun, also. This needs to be on EVERY writer’s bookshelf.

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