With seven unpublished novels wasting away on his hard drive, Tony Vanderwarker is astonished when John Grisham offers to take him under his wing and teach him the secrets of thriller writing. The beginning and the end are easy,” Grisham tells him. It’s the three hundred pages in the middle that’s the hard part.”
To ensure his plot doesn’t run out of gas, Grisham puts Tony though his outline process. Tony does one, and then Grisham asks for another and another and another. As they work together, Grisham reveals the techniques that have helped him create compelling bestsellers for more than two decades—for instance, “You’ve got to hook your reader in the first forty pages or you’ll lose them.” After a year of constructing outlines, Grisham finally gives Tony the go-ahead to start writing.
Writing with the Master immerses the reader in the creative process as Tony struggles to produce a successful thriller. It’s a roller coaster ride, sometimes hilarious, and often full of ups and downs. Grisham’s critiques and margin notes to Tony reveal his nimble imagination and plot development genius. For Grisham fans, Vanderwarker’s memoir pulls back the curtain on his writing secrets, and for aspiring writers, it’s a master class in thriller writing.
In the end, Tony resolves to take Grisham’s teachings to heart and eventually decides to write what he thinks he was meant to: A book about the creative process and his incredible two years working with John Grisham.
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
Not really. There is very little meat on the bone, in writing terms. The is a star-effing memoir posing as a book on craft. The author received notes from Mr. Grisham a few times on what is obviously going to be a terrible book every step of the way. And this ultimately does nothing for the end goal of getting his book published. Plus, he cut in personal life stories mixed in with most of the plot of his failed novel as thickeners to make this a salable page count.
How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?
It is promoted incorrectly. There's not really a story here, it's an anecdote.
Have you listened to any of Fred Stella’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
The audio talent was fantastic.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This book is to writing as The Karate Kid is to karate; a tale of one person's journey in pursuit of a passion; the challenges, the successes, and snippets of daily life thrown to give the main character more dimension.
This is not a how-to book. If you want to learn how to be a writer, there are plenty of books out there. This is a story about how, well, it's in the title: How one of the world's best authors fixed his book and changed his life.
Tony does a great job, really exposing his own ego in the process. And it's a huge ego. At one point, he spends about 20 or 30 minutes reading the latest version of his story, with cut-ins, congratulating himself and picking out the best suit for his appearance on the tonight show.
And the manuscript he's narrating isn't that great at the time, and makes a lot of common mistakes. At that point, I almost gave up on the book, thinking that the previous reviewer was correct; this book is nothing more than a companion piece to a half-rate novel.
But when he begins to narrate Grisham's critique, and describe how he feels like he's been drop-kicked in the face, I absolutely identified with him. I've spent a lot of nights spewing out what I thought would be the greatest thing since Carrie or the Shining, and my own mentor tore it to shreds. I felt the exact same way; denial, bargaining, surrender, and eventually acceptance, but only after deciding I'd never ever try to write again.
I can't think of another book about the writing process that details what Tony's put in here, specifically the parts outside of typing words on a keyboard; (building plot, revisions, taking criticism, more revisions, etc). The helpful points about writing are useful, but overall, it's just a great story about one person's journey through writing a novel.
IF the novel in question went on to become a million-seller, this would be a different book about someone who found the magic handshake to success. But the fact that (prior to the epilogue) he hadn't published his novel makes the story all the more interesting to me; makes it more accessible.
So I'll give this book 4 stars. The narration wasn't fantastic, it was a person who's better suited for non-fiction, which is probably another part that's confusing to listeners.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
Revealed that John Grisham outlines before he writes (coulda been a text message). Helped me save valuable time by avoiding other Tony Vanderwarker books.
I love books about the craft of writing, I have shelves full of them both physical and virtual. This book stands out as a different perspective on the writers craft, the true story of writing a novel with the assistance of a professional author as your mentor. While much can be learned from this book, it's not be confused with the How-To style of writing manual. Entertaining and informative, it is, in my opinion well worth the credit and is one of my personal favorites.
... on Amazon and besides the one he talks about ad nauseam in this one there is none. I am not surprised.