27/12/2013

Wannabe a Writer? (by Jane Wenham-Jones)

Jane Wenham-Jones has apparently published four novels. I have not read any of them. However, I came across several reviews of her non-fiction book 'Wannabe a Writer?' some years ago, recommended in a writing magazine, and also on various writing blogs which I follow. I added it to my wishlis and then almost forgot about it.

Browsing another site, I spotted the book 'Wannabe a Writer we've heard of?', at an excellent price, second-hand. I assumed it was an updated version and bought it. I discovered, rather rapidly, that it was not what I expected. While full of helpful advice about publicity and networking, it wasn't the general guide to being a writer which I had expected. Disappointment set in - shortly followed by relief as I found the book I actually wanted, on special offer (ie free) in Kindle form. It was the work of a moment to download it, although it's taken me many months actually to finish reading it.

Rather different to this average book about writing, 'Wannabe a Writer?' is full of anecdotes, humour - some of it rather risqué - and a great deal of advice to drink heavily and eat a lot of chocolate. Clearly not all to be taken seriously, but I found it very readable and quite inspiring in places. The author doesn't try to inflate her experiences or suggest that getting published is just a matter of hard slog and brilliance; nor does she focus much on layouts or grammar or even how to construct plots. Instead she looks at reasons why people might become writers, and suggests pretty much any outlet (greetings cards, film strips, restaurant critiques...) rather than producing a novel.

There's a tongue-in-cheek quiz that attempts to separate the wannabes from the real writers (I scored right in the middle, with potential but not much more), a serious recommendation to surround oneself with friends called Lynne, and plenty of discussion about how to get organised - or not, how to find a time and place to write, how to cope with family life and keeping a house... and so on.

Then there's some general good advice to those who are determined to go ahead, including the standard recommendations for what a novel is about, punctuated with more anecdotes and suggestions. Then towards the end there is a brief overview of how to get published. Perhaps.

I read the first half of this book in just a few days, thoroughly enjoying the lightweight style and ironies, before getting a bit bogged down in the final chapters. I did not realise (a disadvantage of a Kindle freebie) that the end of the book is simply pages and pages of quotations about writing, from other writers. So eventually I read the first twenty or so then got bored, and skipped through the rest, only to discover that I had reached the end of the book.

This is worth perusing by anyone who is interested in an honest, often self-deprecating account of the life of a writer, with some frivolous humour, some moderate bad language, and much that should undoubtedly be taken with a huge pinch of salt. Available in book and Kindle form on both sides of the Atlantic; the Kindle version is much better value but no longer free.

(I have no idea why the UK version of the Amazon link insists, wrongly, that the main author is Katie Fforde. She simply wrote the foreword)

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews

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