Book Review: Write Naked by Jennifer Probst
I strongly believe I’ll be a lifelong learner. It’s in my blood. Mention something to my dad and he’ll either know the most random facts about it or he’ll look it up and absorb whatever he can. My grandfather (Opa) was similar in that sense. Dad told me Opa would audit classes at the local community college when he had retired, taking as many as he can in a range of subjects. Maybe it’s a genetic thing in which we want to explore and understand. In any case, this trait often leads me to purchase a ton of books, read endless articles, and attend webinars about writing. The most recent resource I came across was Write Naked by Jennifer Probst.
Being a romance writer, I’ve heard Jennifer’s name and have seen her books posted online. However, it wasn’t until I sat in on a session at RWA that she was a panelist for that I really felt curious about her writing. Go figure the first book I ended up reading by her is a book on craft and not one of her many romance novels. (Don’t worry! I’ll get to those too). Although I’ve read many great books on craft, hers really struck a chord with me.
About Write Naked:
Pulled from the Amazon description page.
Learn how to transform your passion for writing into a career. New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Probst reveals her pathway to success, from struggling as a new writer to signing a seven-figure deal. Write Naked intermingles personal essays on craft with down-to-earth advice on writing romance in the digital age. Probst will teach you how to:
Commit to your current work-in-progress, get focused, and complete it on schedule
Reveal raw emotions and thoughts on the page to hook your readers
Assemble a street team to promote and celebrate your books
Overcome writer's block with ease
Develop themes that tie together your books and series
Write the most difficult elements of romance--including sex scenes--with skill and style
Regardless of the genre, every novelist faces a difficult task. Creating authentic characters and an engaging plot are challenging enough. But attempting to break into the hotter-than-ever romance genre, which is constantly flooded with new titles and fresh faces? It can feel impossible. This is where Probst's Write Naked comes in. To survive--and thrive--you need the help and wisdom of an expert.
Written in Probst's unmistakable and honest voice, Write Naked is filled with the lessons and craft advice every writer needs in order to carve out a rewarding career.
Why This Book Mattered To Me
I Felt Understood
There was one chapter that had me screaming YES. Here, Jennifer wrote, “I spend hours by myself, with my imaginary worlds and characters. I don’t wear real pants. I live in pajamas.” And then she talks about how it feels when she has to leave her writing to go function in the real world. “It’s almost as if I don’t remember how to function in the real world...I just stand there like a guppy, confused by fresh air, my head stuffed with cotton balls as I try to transition on a regular basis.”
Of course, the fact that I also look like a train wreck most days wasn’t the only thing that made me feel understood (although I couldn’t help but laugh at how it accurately described how I look and feel), but that we get so lost in our imaginary worlds. A lot of the time I have a blank expression on my face or literally have no idea what someone said to me because I’m not really present. This probably isn’t healthy for real relationships, but this is how I am. As Jennifer said, writers are a little crazy. I’m glad to know I’m in good company.
It Showed Me Never to Give Up
Jennifer has had a massively successful career. But she also shared her trials and tribulations before she got that first book deal that seemed to change everything for her. Even after all of her success, she talks more about the struggles of being a writer. Although she now has adoring fans and books hitting bestsellers lists, she admits that successful writers still face the same challenges as new writers. The self-doubt. The creative block. The loss of passion. The impending deadlines. The expectations of readers.
Basically, it showed me that even if I ever hit the same success as some of the most admired authors, the struggle never stops.
Writing is a solitary career. It’s you against yourself. And every single day we have to face these challenges head on and try to find a way to write with heart. We have to be vulnerable, even if it scares the shit out of us. Even if others tear us down, confirming our worst fears. This is the price we pay to embrace the only thing that helps us make sense of our world. It’s often unbearable, but I don’t know who I’d be without it. Maybe that’s an even scarier thought than putting myself out there.
Many writers early in their careers might give up because of these challenges. Some who have had some level of success might also give up once they realize the challenges don’t go away. If you truly love writing and it’s a part of you, then you need to go into it knowing you’ll have to manage these struggles throughout your whole career.
It Talked About Realities of Writing
The first part of the book helped establish that I felt understood. I heard about Jennifer’s career, and she was very relatable. But a craft book wouldn’t be a craft book without practical advice about writing, and she delivered on that too. Of course, she talked about the usual such as writing hooks, creating themes, making characters pop, how to write emotion, and more. But here are other details that stood out for me:
The right to suck
You don’t have to love all your “children” equally
The hard stuff
Basically, she tells us that we’re allowed to suck. In fact, you need to give yourself permission to suck in order to move forward. So many of us start writing with the idea of trying to be perfect from the start that we end up creating our own writer’s block. Truth is, first drafts usually suck and will need to be revised. So get the story down and fix the issues later.
Also, you don’t have to be super enthused about every single story you write. But just because you don’t love a certain story or specific characters doesn’t mean the story sucks. You’ll likely have plenty of people who love the story you struggled to connect with, and that’s OK! Don’t feel guilty if you weren’t crazy about it. As long as you tried to write the best story you could, that’s all you can do.
Lastly, the hard stuff. Things like writer’s guilt, working in solitude, and the stress of deadlines were all covered here. Some people start writing because they enjoy it and think it could be a fun way to earn money (maybe even leave their traditional job), but they don’t realize that writing has its own challenges. It’s not all roses or butterflies. It’s not always easy. It’s not always a rush of creative genius and scribbling down words that feel true to our hearts. Like any job, you have to deal with the bad, but it’s manageable!
I really enjoyed Jennifer’s voice in this book. She wrote it in a way that made me feel like I’m chatting with a friend who cared about me and understood. It wasn’t preachy. She didn’t boast about all her success and make it seem like I had to listen to her because she “knows her shit.” She was authentic. She felt approachable. That’s what really made this craft book stand out to me compared to others, and why I highly recommend picking it up if you’re a writer.
Interested? Get it here.
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