I was a fan of Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner. Although I admit, I was hesitant when I heard this was a combo of short stories, memoir, and writing instruction. The format sounded unusual.
But I was wonderfully surprised at what an effective format it was!
If any writers are hesitant about the format, I suggest diving in and giving it a try.
How the format works is we read short stories from Tim Waggoner's decades long career, and then he writes about what did and didn't work. He writes about how things have changed over the decades.
Herein lies my favorite aspect of this work. Waggoner is able to really grapple with sexism, racism, fatphobia (the horror community is generally really behind on this one!) as they have changed through the decades. Also the behemoth issue of cultural appropriation. He does this with care and humility.
Horror writing can be a bit of a boys club. And in the indie crowd, with sometimes scant editing, I've read some pretty offensive things that slipped through. We are all flawed writers, but I think Waggoner has a voice particularly useful to male writers today. He proponents constant growth and striving to be better, in a way that does not feel accusatory.
Waggoner is not here to shame. He's not here to flog us for mess ups. He shows his own mess ups, and a honest example of career growth. He genuinely shares his path and how he's wrestled through these issues. I think any aspiring horror writer would greatly benefit from this.
I could say more, but my favorite part where how he spoke about fat characters, and his personal life experience with fatphobia. I think horror books in general are still really bad with bigger characters, and I'd love to see that change in the future.
Thank you Tim Waggoner!!
"Let Me Tell You a Story" by Tim Waggoner is a brilliant continuation of the author's exploration into the craft of horror fiction, building upon the foundation laid by his previous acclaimed works, "Writing in the Dark" (2020) and "Writing in the Dark: The Workbook" (2022), both recipients of the Bram Stoker Award. Unlike its predecessors, this latest guidebook takes a unique approach by delving into Waggoner's extensive and successful career as a professional author.
A blend of autobiography, tutorial, and diagnostic exploration, each chapter of "Let Me Tell You a Story" showcases one of Waggoner's captivating tales. What follows is a journey into the historical context of each story's publication, coupled with insightful commentary that provides readers with a deeper understanding of the author's creative process. Waggoner's signature wit, experience, and know-how shine through as he discusses and re-evaluates his material spanning from 1990 to 2018.
This guidebook serves as an invaluable resource for writers at various stages of their craft, offering exercises that cater to those just beginning their writing journey and those who have already made a name for themselves. The dual nature of "Let Me Tell You a Story" as both a tutorial and a reflection on Waggoner's own literary evolution makes it a versatile and enriching read for aspiring and established writers alike.
The autobiographical elements woven into the narrative add a personal touch, allowing readers to connect with the author on a deeper level. Waggoner's decades-long career unfolds through the pages, providing not only a glimpse into the evolution of his writing style but also offering a broader perspective on the shifts and trends in the literary landscape from 1990 to 2018.
"Let Me Tell You a Story" stands out not only as a guidebook but also as a vital contribution to Waggoner's evolving nonfictional oeuvre. The meticulous blend of storytelling, historical context, and practical exercises creates a dynamic reading experience that goes beyond traditional craft guides. For anyone passionate about the art of writing, especially in the realms of horror and speculative fiction, Waggoner's latest work is a must-read masterpiece that educates, inspires, and entertains.
If you already read the author's stories, you will find it easier to connect with the story and the related exercises. The background of the story inspiration is interesting. Its probably rare and cringe for authors to go back to the stories and come up with better ways of fixing it. Probably this is possible only after a distance and time from the work and post accolades.
I really liked the format of this book. I have read several books on writing and the writing process, but don't remember reading anything quite like this.
You can really tell that Tim Waggoner is a teacher by how organized and logical the presentation is. He goes through several of his own stories from different periods of his life, explaining different aspects of his writing process and what he would do differently now. He also provides alternate ways he could have told the story. Finally, he gives readers multiple writing exercises at the end of each section so that readers can stretch their own imaginations.
It was especially interesting because of how you could see his writing has changed and how his own attitude toward different pieces changes over time. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this.
Tim Waggoner's LET ME TELL YOU A STORY is full of excellent advice that will benefit novice and experienced writers alike.
Engaging and insightful. A recommended purchase for collections where writing craft titles are popular.
Let Me Tell You a Story takes one of the most intriguing elements from Waggoner's first on-writing book. Presenting a short story and critiquing it, expanding the concept into an entire book. It's worth noting that this book functions as a good follow up to Writing in the Dark, but writers new to Waggoner's non-fiction would be wise to start there. The author is very upfront that this is not a typical book of methodologies, functioning sometimes as a story collection, sometimes with a hint of autobiography, sprinkling insight as we go. The book covers topics from choosing a viewpoint, creating empathetic characters and emotional cores, being mindful of writing people outside your own experience in a respectful manner, and much more. A compelling volume for experienced writers looking to add to their toolbox.
I've loved Tim Waggoner as an author and think he writes great stories, so I was interested in reading his book on how to write. It does everything that I hoped for and look forward to using these tips to write on my own.
Tim Waggoner is an excellent writer and good writing instructor. While this book may not be the most exciting it gives an insight into the craft of writing short stories. I greatly enjoyed it.
I really dug how this book was presented! I’ve been trying to write more short stories since my first was published in an anthology a few months ago. This book was a great way to show different styles and structures of short stories. But the best part was hearing the background of the story and what he would have done differently. It didn’t really have anything to do with editing, unless you look at it from a macro scale. It’s not very often we get to see an author’s point of view on their own past work (publicly) as well as a breakdown of what changes they would make. This was so useful if you are a writer, particularly if you have an eye for horror. But any writer can use this. I enjoyed it so much, I suggested it as a resource in my MFA class!
Huge thanks to RDS Publishing and NetGalley for sending me this ARC for review! All of my reviews are given honestly!
“How did I choose the stories included in this book? I decided to include stories that were pivotal in my development as a writer, stories where I learned important lessons or made mistakes that I only recognized in hindsight.”
In LET ME TELL YOU A STORY, Waggoner revisits fourteen of his published (from 1990-2018) stories. He provides the history of each piece including his inspiration, some autobiographical details, and an analysis of the story in terms of craft and what he’d do differently if he were seeking publication for the story today. Afterward, he includes a few exercises for the reader based on his analysis.
Viewing each piece through a modern day lens allows Waggoner to consider issues such as ableism, fatphobia, writing characters outside his lived experience, the influence of other author’s styles, and reoccurring themes within his writing.
The book explores craft topics such as using different points of views, writing fiction of different lengths, exposition, giving a story an emotional core, characterization, choosing point of view characters, beginnings, endings, narrative techniques, using tropes, writing sex scenes, writing hardcore horror, and more.
I really appreciated how Waggoner examined each of his stories critically and shared his learnings. The exercises not only help apply his teachings, they encourage the reader to broaden their writing experience by trying new techniques and expanding their scope.
Waggoner seamlessly blends fiction, analysis, memoir, and craft study. This book reminded me a bit of Stephen King’s classic book ON WRITING.
I'll start this with a few comments. I've read the other two books in this series. They're two of the best "How To Write" books. The other books on that list are Stephen King's On Writing, On Writing Horror By the HWA, and John Gardner's On Becoming A Novelist. Some of these are not true "How To" books. King's is more of a memoir, plainly stated on the cover. The others are How To Write books. Yes, King's book has a section on "How To," but the majority of the book is a memoir and a damn good one.
Tim's books stick with horror, and while the first two, especially the first book, are great for beginners, the third book feels like it's for those further along in their writing.
I loved this one as someone who has moved in a different direction with their writing. The first two helped me get started. This one is helping me move along in a number of ways.
I stopped writing for the last couple of months. It's him analyzing his own stories. Some of which were written a number of years ago. This feels like Tim talking to his younger self. Telling stories about the writer he was. Going through the stories is an analysis of the stories, but also a trip and memoir about the writer he was and is.
I've read my older stuff and see the progression from that writer to the one I am now. I see the elements repeating themselves, as they have for Tim.
Now, the part I can't talk about. I did not do the exercises in this book. Doing them and reading the book for a review would take a bit longer. I will do them when the book comes out and share them here. I spent a few weeks doing the exercises in the other two books. I intend to do that with this book as well.
I'll say that Tim gets better with each one of these. I'm sure he'll be up for another Stoker for this one and probably win.
This series of books has helped me find my voice, fix writing issues, and improve my grasp of the craft. His idea in the first book of creating bags and pulling things from them gave me the idea for the novella I have coming out next month. It was woods, mental health, and cults. I ran with it from there. I got my copy through NetGalley, but as with the others in this series, I'll purchase the physical copy. I need to get through each of the exercises. You all will be the first to know when I do.
I haven't read his other books, so I didn't know what to expect. I do love the format where he shares a story & then goes through feedback he received & changes he made or would make these days. It also has writing exercises. You could even read it if you just want to read short stories. In the beginning he talks about writing female, lgbtq+, non-white characters, which I appreciate. I've read books from female POV by male authors that said ridiculous things, & I've read ones that focus on female experiences (like menopause & postpartum depression) that were done well to the point of surprising me. Even if you don't want to write horror this book would be useful, as long as you can handle reading some
Let Me Tell You a Story is not really a writing book for beginners. If you pot is empty, do not come here looking to fill it up.
Though, with that being said, if you are a fan of Tim Waggoner this book is nice to add to the collection. To get a breakdown of some of his stories. Get an understanding of what inspired the stories. To help you see how every day life and inspiration can
Major mixed feelings about this one!
On one hand, I absolutely loved the format of this book. Getting to read the short stories, with the commentary after, and then the “What would I do differently now” about it was fantastic. Tim Waggoner had such great comments on crafting short stories and what he’s learned over the years, and the very last story How to be a Horror Writer hit me square in the gut. Tim knows how to wield words for maximum emotional impact, and I do feel like I learned so much from that.
On the other hand, the graphic sexual content in multiple of the stories really put me off Tim’s writing. He explains why he uses it, but that’s one pointless tool to shock and horrify that I will never get behind.
So I can’t recommend this book, and I’m sad about it. But I’m still very grateful to Netgalley and the publisher for the arc!
Thank you for this opportunity. This for one should not have been listed as a horror book. It should only be listed in self help. It was a cut and dry how to make yourself a better writer in the author’s opinion. I didn’t enjoy it. It came off as pompous and droll and incredibly boring.