Book Review: The 30-Minute Writer

The 30-Minute Writer:  How To Write & Sell Short Pieces, by Connie Emerson

As someone who reads a fair amount of books relating to writing and the publishing business in some fashion [1], this book is written exactly for someone like me.  There are a few aspects of this book that stand out particularly strongly concerning the author’s approach and target audience.  She is writing to versatile writers with a lot of demands on their time, and provides information that is intensely practical from the point of view of someone who wishes to provide encouragement that there are enough opportunities for many writers to succeed.  This is a book with an eye both towards creativity and variety as well as flexibility with a focus on the writer’s bottom line.  This would appear to be an aspect of this particular publisher to keep an eye on.  To be sure, a great deal of the author’s advice would be different based on the changes in the business of writing in the last 30 years, but the author’s approach about how to use short snippets of focused writing time to write short pieces is certainly an approach that this somewhat overly scheduled writer finds to be worthwhile to pursue.  Even if a writer is doing most of what the author is talking about already, this is still a worthwhile book for those with more careerist ambitions as a writer.

In about 233 pages or so, the author manages to cover a variety of short writing that do not take a long time to write and that can earn a writer both a fair amount of income as well as relationships with publishers, who are discussed here invariably in the language of “markets.”  Beginning with a short introduction and a discussion of how a writer can allot precious and scarce time to worthwhile writing, the author then tackles different genres of brief writing, namely short takes from the observant generalist, zippy and focused one-page pieces, not-so-well-developed short personal profiles, opinionated op-ed pieces, humorous sketches, hot tips and tricks, inspirational pieces, restaurant reviews, reflective personal essays, critical reviews, contest pieces, writing for children, and anecdotes.  The author then closes with a discussion of how short pieces written in isolated fragments of time can be combined profitably into larger projects.  Many writers will no doubt find that they already do this sort of writing and may find that they adopt many of the tips included in the plans of action at the end of each chapter, but this book manages the enviable trick of being encouraging where the author discusses what the author is already doing and also worthwhile when there is something more that a writer could do that he or she is not yet doing.  Authors would do well to imitate this model in their writings whenever possible.

Given that this book was published in 1993, when the publishing world was somewhat different than today before the depredations of the internet on the profitability of many writing markets, what value does this book hold to the contemporary writer?  I cannot speak for everyone, but at least for myself I found that the book gave me a certain amount of encouragement as to what practical areas of reading and research can be added to try to find creative outlets for my writing.  For the most part, at least so far, I have relied on people coming to me looking for writing or fellow authors sharing the places they have found to get free books for review.  While this has been somewhat helpful, it is also quite reactive in nature.  Other writers may find themselves at different stages in the process–some looking for how to keep up their writing in the face of immense pressures for their time, some people looking for inspiration on what sort of writing to do, and others looking at what to do with the immense backlog of writing in various genres that has already been developed, and how to put one’s skills to profitable use.  Wherever one is in one’s trajectory as a writer, this book has something worthwhile to say that is of enduring value despite changes to the world of writing due to technologies.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Book Review: The 30-Minute Writer

  1. Pingback: Book Review: 48 Days To The Work You Love | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Stories, Not Genres | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Writing For The Magazines | Edge Induced Cohesion

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