>Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life

>I confess I read it mostly for the cartoons. For a long time I’ve had a yellowing “Classic Peanuts” strip on my bulletin board. Snoopy is standing by the mailbox reading a response to a submission. (Right away you recognize a real writer–tearing open his SASE before he gets back inside the house.) “Dear Contributor,” says the letter, “We are returning your dumb story. Note that we have not included our return address. We have moved to a new office, and we don’t want you to know where we are.” Definitely this is the Writing Life.

That strip is included in the book, along with many others about Snoopy’s experiences as he struggles to write his novel, “It was a dark and stormy night.” For my money, that would have been enough, but the book also includes more than 30 short essays by successful authors, most with “tips” for struggling writers like Snoopy.

Here is an excerpt from the piece by Sue Grafton:

One of the most difficult decisions an unpublished writer makes is when to take advice and when to ignore all you well-meaning critics and do it your way. [This is in response to a strip in which Lucy has just suggested that Snoopy change his title.] (Almost) ever work of fiction can bear improvement. When you’re first starting out, it’s hard to know how much is enough and how much is too much, where you’ve engaged your reader and where you’ve bored her to tears. It’s tempting to submit your manuscript to everyone you know: friends and relatives, co-workers, classmates, members of your critique group. It’s natural to want feedback–some snese of how you’re doing so you’ll know what to do next.

This is good advice. But not nearly as fun as the comics.

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