See Jane Write - A Review

See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit See Jane Write: A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit 
By Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs
Publisher: Quirk Books

 I have special standards for books that purport to tell you how to do something specific.
For instance, the book The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman  wants you to buy it because it’s going to tell you how to write the opening your story needs. You know the one. The one that’s going to hook that agent, editor, and reader and convince them they have to buy your book. What a frustration that was because it basically said write well. Well, duh! Isn’t that what I’m supposed to be doing on every page? Did the book give tips about how to write well? Yes. Were the tips anything I couldn’t have found elsewhere? No. Guess how I feel about that book?

So my standard for See Jane Write is that what it shares must be significant and specific to writing chick lit.

If I make the presumption that anyone interested in this book already knows what chick lit is, likes it, and wants to write it, then I won’t have to spend 20+ pages explaining that chick lit was born with Bridget Jones Diary or that in spite of rumors to the contrary, chick lit is not dead. (Though sometime is seems to be undead because vampires are alive and well and seem to be taking over the genre. Okay, yeah, I worked that analogy to death.)

So let’s examine the “rules” listed in Chapter 4.
  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Don’t be afraid of commitment
  3. There’s a fine line between clever and catty. 
  4. Just because it looks easy doesn’t mean it is.
  5. It should feel right.
  6. Just because you’re the only girl at the table doesn’t mean you’re the only person in the world.
  7. Don’t be afraid of commitment.
  8. Use your friends, but don’t abuse your friends.
  9. Rejection happens 

How many of these are specific to chick lit? I’d say . . .  two and a half. That would be 3 & 6, with a half point for 2 just because wit and humor are a vital part of chick lit.

Keep in mind, none of these rules covers a complete page, so we’re not talking about any ground-breaking revelations here, and this is the only specific “how to write chick lit” content in part 1 (the first 60 pages) of the book.

Part two starts with “Creating Your Main Character.” That’s promising. After all, the main character is key to chick lit, and the book nails it pretty well that this character is “just like you only funnier” though I probably would have said snarkier. And maybe whinier. Regardless, the main character is crucial because the audience must connect with her. That’s at the heart of chick lit. The unique aspects of a chick lit main character is covered in about 3 pages. Four more pages are dedicated to the cliché characters to avoid like the Ditz, the Whiner, the Bitch, etc. This I found interesting because, while I’ve read chick lit, it’s not a huge part of my reading diet, so I haven’t hit the saturation levels where I instinctively think, “oh, not this again.” Whether it’s worth it to you is going to depend on whether your tolerance levels prevent you from recognizing these as cliché characters.

I could continue analyzing the book, but let me pull a random sentence as an example. On page 83, the first sentence of a new a paragraph is:

“The conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist is what often
  drives the plot of the novel forward, leading to the story’s climax.” 
(No worries, there’s more on plot and conflict in chapter 9.)

If that’s not Creative Writing 101, then I don’t know what is. And that's pretty much how the rest of the book goes.

The truth is this is a book intended for that reader who loves chick lit, thinks it looks so easy that she could write a book like this. She runs out and buys this. If her enthusiasm carries her past page 20 of the book, and she actually puts words on paper (or screen),  she soon discovers it’s tougher than it looks. The book goes on the shelf never to be opened again.

Does it have anything to offer the serious author? Yeah, not so much.

If I were Ebert (or Roeper), it would be thumbs down for See Jane Write.

If you'd like to see reviews of other writing sources, go here.  

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