“Part biography, part reflection and part practical guide, Release the Bats explores the mysteries of why and how we tell stories, and the craft of writing fiction. DBC Pierre reveals everything he learned the hard way.”
I haven’t read Vernon God Little, or anything else by DBC Pierre. I’m not even sure how I stumbled across this work. It is quite unlike any other book about writing that I’ve read – and I’ve read quite a few (before I started reviewing them). It is somehow a maverick’s guide to writing. Pierre is right, most of the others I’ve read are by editors or publishers. They give you the net result; the things that work in terms of successful publishing. It is a tall ask of aspiring writers to produce a polished draft, let alone a first one.
What is liberating, rather like the permission that I heard on the Writing Retreat, was that the first draft is shit (thanks be to Hemingway), and this is Pierre’s message. You have to get the story out, in whatever it takes, but this isn’t the work. The work is the craft, and the craft is where you plan, shape, prune (and prune some more), and are tough with the words and yourself. In a sentence, strike out every other word. Odds are it will probably still work. (Odds it probably work(s).. look how I did that?).
So, there is this wonderful natural style. Like pulling up a chair with an old rogue (strike old), and taking their wisdom. It is entertaining, but it is also rich. Points made by rambling around subjects, with anecdotes and quotes. Pierre emphasises the craft of brevity; and this is the genius of his book. The last section is a summary of the work of the early chapters. He boils down his own book into a few headlines – that make perfect sense. A truly powerful gift in itself.
It makes you realise that the hard work isn’t in the 100,000 words of the novel (although God knows it feels like it), but in the craft of getting those words (and losing half of them) into something that is fit to print.
For anyone interested in writing (the verb, not the noun of being a writer) and the different skills needed in the craft, this is a gem of a book.