Review: The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell

Note:  Typically I post my reviews on Brabble.  However, as this book is specifically dedicated to writing, I thought I’d include it here as well.  If you are subscribed to both I apologize for the double post!

Another note: Whenever I post a review I include a link to make things easier for you, the reader.  I do not make a profit from my recommendations.


I’ve always assumed that if one is creative enough to write well they’ll never succeed in business.  Good marketing does take creativity, it’s true.  But the business end of “show business”, be it acting, writing, music, you name it, is usually the last thing the muse has time for.

It was a rude shock when I discovered that to be a successfully published author one must be equally successful in business.  I look at the wide world of “The Suits” with alarm, fear, and dread.  It makes me want to slink away and hide.  Fortunately, there are people like James Scott Bell in the world.

sun-tzus-the-art-of-war-a-52-brilliant-ideas-interpretation.1I’m big fan of eastern philosophy, so I thought I knew what to expect when I picked up “The Art of War for Writers“.  The original “Art of War”, a military treatise written by Sun Tzu around 500 BC, is a strategic guide that can be applied to nearly any situation.  When I was in college it was the “big thing” to read, especially if you were in pursuit of an MBA.  When I saw it applied to writing I pounced on a copy without hesitation.

This book is one of the happier surprises I’ve had in some time.  The original “Art of War” is an outstanding book, but to get the most out of it you’d be well advised to take it slowly and really think about what Sun Tzu is trying to explain.  Mulling the various applications is what takes so long, as the book is quite short.  Unlike its source material, “The Art of War for Writers” is an extremely user-friendly read.  In the introduction he explains “…the publishing business is a messy affair… there are many obstacles on the way to publication… it seems daunting and down-right hostile out there.”

Ah, says me, this guy speaks my language!

“I am, like you, a writer.  We understand each other.  We are not like other people.  We are, in fact, pitiable wretches.”

HA!!  I’m sold.

ArtofWarforWritersThe Art of War For Writers stays focused on three main ideas: reconnaissance (mental focus), tactics (the craft of writing) and strategy (the wilds of publication).  I was pleased to discover that while he does include “how to” tips for the creation of a novel (he is, after all, a writing coach!) James Scott Bell never strays far from the topic of publication.  THAT is what I really need to know!

One of the best surprises in the book is the tone.  Sun Tzu is very straightforward, very matter-of-fact.  What else would you expect from a Chinese general who lived 2,500 years ago?  James Scott Bell, on the other hand, is warm and encouraging.  He spends a good portion of the book acting as your personal cheerleader while at the same time managing to keep things real.  It’s a fine line, but he walks it well.  After reading the book I found that not only had I learned a great deal, but I was calm, focused and optimistic about my eventual success.

Sun Tzu would be proud.


5 thoughts on “Review: The Art of War for Writers, by James Scott Bell

  1. This looks very appealing. I remember the hub-bub over “The Art of War” when I was in college. I have no strong interest in reading the original, but this looks very worthwhile.

    • I was really surprised how user friendly this book turned out to be. There’s places to write in goals and personal affirmations (if you have a physical copy, of course) and a ton of useful information. I’m sorry I didn’t read this long ago! It has move to the upper ranks of my “recommended” list.

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