Normally I wouldn't dignify such codswallop with a response of any kind. But someone has left this swill a positive review, and I would hate to see any curious or struggling writer suckered out of 2.99 in order to be condescended to by a bitter, clueless narcissist. So here I am. (With apologies to any book I have left a one-star review for previously. You do not deserve to be lumped in with this guy, but the system is unequipped for the depth of my ire.)
Gosh, what can one say about the Michael Allen's "essays" on writing? I admit to only reading two -- this, and "On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile" -- and only because they are available as free PDFs. (Still are, if you must take a peek. A Google search reveals that while the website for Kingsfield Publications, owned and operated by Michael Allen, is a ghost, whoever is in charge of site maintenance didn't know how to take the essays offline before putting them for sale on Amazon.) This guy is ridiculous. According to him anyone who wants to be a writer is in it for the fame (hah!), fortune (HAH!), and adoring throngs of bed partners (!!!). And while it's understandable he'd want to discourage such notions, he does it not so much along the lines of 'suffer for your art but get a day job for your bills,' but more 'that's how it SHOULD be, and WOULD be, were it not for the incompetence of editors, the money-grubbing agents, and audiences who are little more than glorified opium-eaters.'
I mean. Seriously. What?
Allen tackles a variety of topics in these essays, ultimately aimed at underscoring the futility of a writing career. He tries to support his long-winded reasoning with "science" (Please note the scare quotes. Please, please.) in an apparent attempt to lend his personal feelings and experiences the objectivity of logical thought. What's embarrassing is how badly he mucks it up, presenting extremely basic concepts with the flourish of bringing wisdom to the unwashed masses. He stresses the importance of, say, quantifying the value of your intended result -- something any experimental thinker learns once they've eclipsed the seventh-grade science fair. I suppose Allen has the right to say what he feels about writing, as a career he once practiced, but he should leave scientific thought alone.
In fact, "The Truth" feels distinctly middle-grade in ambition. Even when Allen produces salient points, they're often things which, really, should be obvious to anyone with more than a passing interest in writing. For instance: did you know it's the artist's job to INSPIRE emotion, rather than just express it? Allen also implores the reader not fall into the "trap of thinking that anything which you have written is automatically wonderful, just because you wrote it." He then devotes roughly thirty pages to the concepts of eating right, drinking enough water, getting exercise and avoiding RSI. I mean, yes, these are concerns people should have -- and not just writers -- but how low can the bar be set?
When he's not paddling in the kiddy pool, Allen is busy constructing a perception of the publishing business which is outright harmful to writers. Allen claims that writers don't get the respect they deserve as the lifeblood of the business, that editors are in it for the free lunches, and that the slush pile is a joke. Drawing from an extremely limited data pool (again with the shoddy science), he "proves" that industry professionals are incapable of recognizing talent or a potential bestseller, and that any success in this business is based on circumstance and circumstance alone. While there might be (tiny, tiny) grains of truth to what he says, any unagented writer who adopts these attitudes will soon find doors closed to them: doors of hard-working people who love their jobs even as they acknowledge the flaws of the system. The publishing business is just that -- a business -- and the blogs of the many agents and editors (and even published writers!) out there unashamed to reveal its workings will be exponentially more helpful than anything Allen contributes.
Finally -- and yes, this feels mean, but it must be said -- Allen is simply not that good a writer. His essays are a real slog due to a lack of structure and coherence; he doesn't seem as interested in proving his point as he is in displaying his talent for rhetoric. Which in itself is questionable -- Allen boasts of being a plain speaker, but in the next paragraph inserts "sesquipedalian," seemingly without irony. And anyone who uses "it therefore follows, as dogs follow a bitch in season" when making an academic argument has a considerable problem with tone. It may feel like nitpicking, but I'm trying to accurately reproduce why "The Truth" feels like the aimless ramblings of amateur hour. It's also interesting to note that Allen enjoys creating fictional characters to embody of his idea of reality and that, nine times out of ten, the targets of his mockery and disgust are conceptualized as women -- from snooty editors to weepy office workers to gullible readers. It gives the whole things a greasy patina of misogyny, which does nothing to improve the overall impact. (I mean, nothing like the phrase "all work and no play makes Jill a hard-nosed, unattractive bitch" to brighten MY day.)
Don't listen to this person. Don't give him money. There are other, more savvy people out there generously dispensing their insight for FREE. Don't waste your time on advice re: "success" from a someone who confesses they haven't sold a piece of writing in decades.