Books · Reviews

SRP Review (Non-fiction) – The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

Disclaimer: The reviews I post on The Self Rescue Princess won’t be the usual style of book review that talks about all the points and elements of a novel. My intention is to focus on heroines that I believe exemplify the spirit and character of a self-rescuing princess or are on their way to achieving that status.

This year, I’ve decided to add in one non-fiction (self-help or how to) review a month. With celebrating the Self-Rescuing Princess type, I decided this year to read at least one non-fiction book a month so I can either improve my skills in an area or learn a new one. For January, I decided to tackle writing.

Now on to the review:


After reading The of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, I closed my eyes and hit delete, eliminating the prologue in my novel Safe and Sound. (After highlighting it which I did with my eyes opened.) I got that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I thought about it doing it, but the voice saying “laying the groundwork for the big reveal takes away from the conflict and leave them gasping effect when it is announced” won. I’m glad.

It has been awhile since a writing craft book, and I do love to collect and read them, has forced me to change my mind about a part of my story I held near and dear. I thought long and hard before I wrote the prologue because there is a mindset in the author community that prologues are bad writing. I worked hard to overcome the objections some writers have of prologues by making sure there was a valid reason for mine and that it worked for the story.

In Chapter 50, Mr. Bell writes that “Success may be found in 3 great scenes, and no weak ones.” The keys words for great scenes are Conflict, Emotion and Surprise. When I wrote the prologue, I felt it was necessary to set up the story, the romance, but in doing so I took away two of my writing tools for creating a great scene. The prologue gave the story emotion. Intense emotion. Tugging at the heart-strings, possibly making the reader teary emotion, but it took away surprise. And while the suspense conflict was there in those 2,000 plus words, removing the prologue created a bigger romantic conflict. Now all the scenes following Chapter 1, the  new beginning of the book, have an increased level of conflict, emotion and surprise as the readers wonder what lead to the revelation in chapter one … since the prologue is no longer explaining it.

More than having me look at my work in progress in another way, Mr. Bell had me realizing my worries about one aspect (promoting books) of my writing career was shaping all of it and the heart of it in a negative way.  The one sentence I highlighted in the book says, “Meaning, the more anxious you are about forcing success through self-promotional effort, the less creative energy you have for the writing itself.”

I’ve had some ups and down over the last year with my writing, or at least my attitude and joy of creating books. Those over-the-top dreams of sales didn’t match the reality at all so I figured if I tried harder (which means more time spent promoting and less writing) I’d see the results. And discovered that’s not the case. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t it working for me. It had to be I wasn’t doing it right. Getting it. Then, I’d ‘scold’ myself for the time wasted. Moan and berate the writer on how many more books would be completed if only they’d put their time and energy in a more productive pursuit. Not a very good way for a writer to treat another writer — especially themselves.

This year I will give myself a break. Treat myself the way I would my friends who write and come to me discouraged and doubting. I’d say words to build them up. Encourage them. Most of all, remind them their writing means something to me.

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