The book is a fun, lighthearted romp about a film agent who ends up being the P.R. guy for a group of ugly aliens wanting to be accepted by the earthlings despite their extremely off-putting appearance and odor. A highly entertaining read and clever story, to say the least.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Beyond the unusual plot line, what particularly endeared me to the book was that it was Scalzi's very first novel and one he wrote as a "practice" novel just so he could say that he had done it (and to impress his classmates at his 10 year high school reunion :) ).
Here's what he has to say about it on his website (where, by the way, you can read the whole novel):
"In sitting down to write the novel, I decided to make it easy on myself. I decided first that I wasn't going to try to write something near and dear to my heart, just a fun story. That way, if I screwed it up (which was a real possibility), it wasn't like I was screwing up the One Story That Mattered To Me. I decided also that the goal of writing the novel was the actual writing of it -- not the selling of it, which is usually the goal of a novelist. I didn't want to worry about whether it was good enough to sell; I just wanted to have the experience of writing a story over the length of a novel, and see what I thought about it. Not every writer is a novelist; I wanted to see if I was.
"Making these two decisions freed me from a lot of the usual angst and pain that comes from writing a first novel. This was in all respects a 'practice' novel -- a setting for me to play with the form to see what worked, and what didn't, and what I'd need to do to make the next novel worth selling."
The genius of this was that it freed him from the zeitgeist of perfectionism (a trap many of us, including me, know only too well) and allowed him to loosen up, have some fun, and get into action with Doing The Writing.
He made some attempts at selling it, but wasn't able to, so he ended up posting it online for donations from people if they liked it on a kind of "shareware" basis. (Love that!) He was later invited to do a limited edition hardcover release of the book in 2005 and then in paperback in 2008.
Build Your Confidence
Magically, he says, "...between the writing of this novel and the publication of [my second novel], five other books (Amazon referral link) slipped out of my brain, due in some measure to my confidence that I could write book-length works, be they fiction or non-fiction."
Love that, too.
Isn't it fascinating how simply doing the writing helps us to build the confidence we think we need "before" we can do it "for real." This clever guy found a way to do both at once.
There's nothing like finding small ways to get started to help build your confidence around new skills.