Last week Dean Orion’s writer’s craft book, ‘Live to Write Another Day, A survival guide for Screenwriters and Creative Storytellers’ was available for free. During that promotion, I picked the e-book up, and now will provide a review of the book.
‘Live to Write Another Day’ is part craft / part auto-biographical in some aspects. Drawn from Orion’s many years writing for the film and television industry, and interestingly, for interactive games and edutainment such as Disney’s parks, the book provides some simple responses to process.
Orion’s chapters on process are brief, and summarised with a bullet list – these lists are amalgamated into a final chapter for reference. Written with a fair bit of humour, the brief chapters make for a quick read. As a slow reader, I managed to get through the book in only a few hours.
The book begins with a discussion over the ‘writer gene’ – Orion maintains that writers are born with this – the need to write. (Some of us – like me – may put the gene off for some years, pretending it doesn’t exist, but we come back). Orion’s website is titled after this concept – ‘The Writer Gene’.
The first few chapters deal with issues all writers encounter – procrastination and writer’s block, although Orion shares the same opinion I do regarding the legitimacy of both – he suggests that procrastination is a natural part of the creative process, but there is no such thing as writer’s block – which is a term for the panic we all feel in writing when ideas don’t come as readily as we’d like.
Next through the writing process Live to Write Another Day moves into screenwriting, with terms like “Notes” which as a novel writer I would refer to as “critique”, “feedback” or perhaps “reviews” dependent on when they might come. The book finishes at this process, rather than going on with the publishing steps necessary as a creative writer outside of screenwriting. This may throw some readers, looking for more crafting of writing tips, but I found the memoir perspectives fascinating – Orion includes a memory of his film school days when visited by a well known film producer. The producer watched the rolling of a famous film he’d brought out several years beforehand, only to comment afterwards that he should have cut the scene on one particular actor much quicker than he did. Orion uses this as a good example of writers (or other creatives) who don’t stop working on their projects even after publishing. There’s always something to be learnt, or improvements possible from past works.
Crafting-wise, I found an epiphany for my own work in a brief chapter where Orion discussed the differences between villains and villainy. I was able to go back to an area that was blocking my own revision work, and look at it from a very different perspective. It requires a large rewrite and revision planning pass, but the story will be much better for it.
Orion’s tips on giving and receiving notes (feedback) on our drafts was another winner for me. He broaches giving feedback in a positive way. As somebody not particularly experienced in giving or receiving feedback, I walked away with a new understanding of how I could manage and enjoy the process in both directions.
For these reasons, although I wouldn’t recommend the book to new writers looking for much more crafting help, I will be giving Live to Write Another Day five stars, and recommend it for writers looking for advice and stories from a pro-writer.