J.R. Ward compiled a collection of short stories, deleted scenes, character studies, and writing advice in her Insider’s Guide to the Black Dagger Brotherhood. It’s an excellent resource for writers who enjoy the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genres, but it is a bit too behind the scenes for the average reader.

Stories/Deleted Scenes

The book opens with a novella that explores the relationship between the vampire couple Bella and Zsadist after the birth of their child. Years before the time line in the book series, Zsadist lived a life of slavery, and until he met Bella, he believed he was bad news for any woman. Bella and other characters help him heal and build a good relationship with his baby daughter. The novella provides deeper insight into the characters as well as a nice appetizer to help loyal readers wait until the next book comes out.

The short section of deleted scenes — J.R. Ward uses most of the material she writes, so deleted scenes are few and far between — provides some additional insight into the characters. Many of the other snippets and character interviews are pulled from the Black Dagger Brotherhood website, so they don’t break any new ground for many fans of the series.

Writing Tips

J.R. Ward included one chapter titled For Writers. In it, she gives her eight commandments for writing:

  • Persist and Reinvent: Keep at your writing, making changes to your focus as needed.
  • Write Out Loud: Don’t censor your vision. Capture it on the page to your best ability.
  • Own Your Own Work: Learn and practice to become a better writer. Don’t depend on everyone else to solve your writing problems.
  • Plotlines Are Like Sharks: Your plot most move, or it will die.
  • Sweat Equity Is the Best Investment: Writing is a job, and the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
  • Conflict Is King: Without conflict, you don’t have a story that is worth telling.
  • Credible Surprise Is Queen: You shouldn’t be able to guess what will happen too early in the story, but characters’ actions must be believable.
  • Listen to Your Rice Krispies: Let your characters be who they are. Capture them as they appear to you.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t really define them in this section. Rather, the previous section of character dossiers contains definitions and specific examples of each commandment.


The Insider’s Guide is a good book, but it suffers from trying to be everything to everyone. Writers who are looking for a writing book will likely be disappointed by the number of pages that don’t discuss writing at all. The inclusion of writing tips in sections of the book not labeled specifically for writers could keep these readers from finding the real meat of the writing advice.

Readers of the series will skim over the pages about Ward’s writing process and end the book wishing there had been more stories.

The best audience for the book is writers of paranormal stories. They will enjoy the specific information about the genre, the stories that illuminate the characters in the books, and the interesting way Ward treats her characters. Of particular interest is the book proposal, presented as submitted, mistakes and all.

Publisher: New American Library

Publication Date: October 2008

ISBN: 9780451225009

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