Never Say You Can't Survive
by Charlie Jane Anders
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Pub Date 17 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 27 Jan 2022
WINNER OF THE 2022 HUGO AWARD FOR BEST RELATED WORK
From Charlie Jane Anders, the award-winning author of novels such as All the Birds in the Sky and The City in the Middle of the Night, this is one of the most practical guides to storytelling that you will ever read.
The world is on fire.
So tell your story.
Things are scary right now. We’re all being swept along by a tidal wave of history, and it’s easy to feel helpless. But we’re not helpless: we have minds, and imaginations, and the ability to visualize other worlds and valiant struggles. And writing can be an act of resistance that reminds us that other futures and other ways of living are possible.
Full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish during the present emergency, Never Say You Can’t Survive is the perfect manual for creativity in unprecedented times.
-”The Year of Charlie Jane Anders”, featuring cross-market promotion with her fiction collection Even Greater Mistakes & her first YA book, Victories Greater than Death, with a major publicity & awards campaign & national author tour
-Continuous promotion up to publication with each essay published periodically on Tor.com, including virtual events & multi-platform engagement from an author with more than 54K social media followers
-Extensive coverage on Tor.com, which averages 1 million unique visitors and 3 million pageviews per month, with more than half a million newsletter subscribers and over 240K social media followers
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 35 members
Necessary reading for any creatives out there, whether writers or just livers-of-life. It's inspiring, it's helpful on a craft level, it's just nice to be in the community that CJA has built (and continues to build!), particularly when things don't exactly feel at all light or hopeful most days.
This wonderful writing book includes five sections which cover getting started, what to write about, what constitutes a story, feelings, and writerly tricks. Some of the individual topics include imposter syndrome, uncertainty, creating characters, voice, ideas, endings, emotion, revision, plotting, common story problems, character change, world building, weirdness, writing about other experiences, and relationships.
The book is a compilation of writing essays written for Tordotcom to share advice for writing despite obstacles such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The book includes plenty of examples and exercises and Charlie Jane Anders’ encouragement is like having a personal cheerleader. Each essay has a conversational tone making the information more palatable than a typical writing craft book. I especially liked the chapters on keeping writing fun, writing about different experiences/cultures, and writing the story only you can tell.
While Anders is a speculative fiction writer and some of the craft advice relates specifically to storytelling, NEVER SAY YOU CAN SURVIVE is an excellent resource for all writers whether they write genre, literary, non-fiction, or poetry.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Thanks to Tordotcom for providing an Advance Reader Copy.
One of the things that marks my writing experience are periods of existential loneliness, times when I think I'm fooling myself about this whole author thing. Then a friend, an article, or a Tweet will come at me from left field saying "I got you. You *are* a writer. Feeling weird is normal. I believe in you." Those moments help me go on, and they're one of the three reasons you'll love "Never Say You Can't Survive" by Charlie Jane Anders. This book is full of those moments.
I'm not a professional book reviewer, I'm just a guy trying to be a professional writer. So when Anders put the offer out to let me review her new book on Netgalley, I jumped at it. It was important for me to know what she could teach me about my own journey. Never Say You Can't Survive is chock-full of stoic wit, and there are three reasons you'll love it as soon as you start reading.
Make no mistake, however. This might be be a book by and for writers, but everyone else should read it, too. Anders captures the discomfort, weirdness, and rollercoasters of emotion you travel on your journey to feel comfortable in your own skin. 'Weirdness gives me the strength to keep going,' she says as a chapter title, and peppers the book with great music references that I thought only I knew. It's her way of saying 'you are seen.' That was very comforting to me, and it'll make you feel good, too. Are you othered? Different? Just to the left of normal? Never Say You Can't Survive is a party and you're invited. That's the first reason you'll love this book.
The second reason is that along the way to Whoville, Anders offers helpful tidbits about the process of writing that I found insightful. I'm always on the lookout for ways to hack the work, but as Anders brings out in 'Find Your Voice and Make It Loud,' writing style is not an austere matter. As you develop your writing style, don't be afraid to experiment, be expressive, write about what makes you feel good no matter what anyone else says. Your writing style should be a snuggly blanket that keeps you safe and warm from the inhospitable outside world. After all, it is painful to have to pretend that the world makes sense. We all know it doesn't, but Anders isn't afraid to say that quiet part out loud.
A third and perhaps the largest reason you'll love Never Say You Can't Survive is the idea that you must be you, in order to be you. You cannot write the book that feels close to your heart if you aren't in touch with your heart. Writing is an act that forces you to peer into the abyss, and let the abyss peer into you. Writing is an act that forces you to uncover what you're really trying to say, and what that says about you. That can be a scary, difficult, and yes, a liberating process. Don't run from it, Anders says.
As Robert Mailer says in his novel 'Boonville,' it's never easy to be yourself. Never Say You Can't Survive acknowledges this hardship, while refusing to be shackled to it. Yes, it's hard, Anders wants you to know. But that is what makes it good. The struggle is real. You're getting closer to who you're supposed to be. Welcome the struggle. There are many reasons you'll love Never Say You Can't Survive, but these three will help you get started.
Charlie Jane Anders is one of my favorite authors. This is the first nonfiction book I've read of hers. It is a book about the writing process. Anders focuses on how writing can be helpful during difficult times and then on how to write. I read this on my kindle and found myself constantly bookmarking sections that I wanted to go back and reread. There is just so much practical information about writing: developing characters, revisions, plots, writer's block. But what I think sets this book apart (and above), is how Anders wrote it as if giving advice to a friend. It's as if, she is sitting in a coffee shop sharing wisdom with a friend. Her writing is personal and funny and helps to remove the mystique from writing. I think that anyone interested in writing, either in appreciation of books in general or in writing their own stories would enjoy Never Say You Can't Survive.
I received an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Never Say You Can't Survive is a lot more than a manual about writing and life – it is solid gold sprinkled with fairy dust.
I am a bestselling published author in three genres, and a totally story structure geek, and I can honestly say that this is the first book that I have read in a long time that made me stop in my tracks, think hard about the writing process, and come out the other side inspired and motivated.
I took five pages of detailed notes on everything from characterisation and the psychology of community support systems to the power of positive literature in a time of international crisis.
It is difficult to select specific examples from a book where every page seems to have a unique thought-provoking insight into story development, but I particularly enjoyed the chapters on using plot devices and turning points and how to leverage the ending to drive the revision process. Also, how to use the power or emotion and sensory description to add layers of interest to any scene. The chapter on worldbuilding was remarkable!
I would heartily recommend this book to any writer who wants to develop their story craft and build amazing works of fiction – and have fun doing it.