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How to write a lot of drivel
on 27 October 2011
On page 110 of this book the author writes 'I spent fewer days writing this book's first draft than I spent writing a recent funded grant'. It shows.
This is a very thin book, in all senses of the word. It says one thing: create a writing schedule and stick to it. Yet somehow the author has managed to spread this out over 132 repetitive pages. These are bulked up with vacuous comment, pointless charts, unfunny cartoons clipped from the New Yorker, and self-regarding ramblings. It is nothing more than a cut and paste job, given a veneer of authority by a whole five pages of spurious academic references at the end. Moreover, for a book supposedly aimed at academics, it is impressively banal. For example, the author writes: "People read books when they want to learn about a new area, to gain a broad perspective on a new body of research, and to see what you have to say'. Any academic that gleans new insights from that is, presumably, in the wrong job.
But what is most astonishing is that for a book that purports to explain how to write more and better, it is so badly written. On almost every page there is a reference to one or more of the following: the author's friends, how much coffee he drinks, or the use of the word 'mittens'. A good editor would have knocked this stuff out of the manuscript. A good writer wouldn't have put it in there in the first place. And if you need further evidence of the vacuous ramblings within its pages, here's a sample quote from p125: "Writing books is clean family fun without the fun or the family (or even the cleanliness if you spill your coffee as often as I do)".
Towards the end of the book the author says: "It's ironic to write a short book about how to write a lot, but there isn't much to say". Quite. Save your money and spend your time writing instead.