Book review: Wannabe a writer? Most definitely.

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Wannabe a writer? This hilarious, informative guide to getting into print is a must-have for anyone who’s ever thought they’ve got a book in them. Drawing on her own experiences as a British novelist and journalist, Wenham-Jones takes you through the minefield of the writing process, giving advice on everything from how to avoid Writer’s Bottom to what to wear to your launch party. Including hot tips from authors, agents, and publishers at the sharp end of the industry.

-excerpt from Goodreads

Like most many some one or two other kids I knew, I grew up wanting to be a writer. Specifically, a writer of (presumably good) novels/novel series. Even after majoring in journalism in polytechnic and getting published in a few national magazines and e-zines, I still craved to finally complete my first fictional piece. So, having graduated from the hustle and bustle of university life and having settled into the monotony (but more stable, time-wise) of working life, I’ve finally decided to start brushing up on the skills I need to actually get in order to write that novel. Which means, of course, reading how-to books.

To me, the best kinds of guide/how-to books are the kinds that not only contain actual usable, practical tips on the subject but also make me want to start on it (even more than I already do). Wannabe a Writer? is one of those books.

Written by an author that I’ve admittedly never heard of, Wannabe a Writer? is a semi-autobiography masquerading as a guide book and, as such, is quite a bit different from other books that I’ve seen read on this topic. Instead of pages and pages of droll (but useful) information, Jane Wenham-Jones packs the book with personal anecdotes of her path to publishing success, some helpful (and some not helpful) tips from her published friends and a(n un)healthy dose of wit.

For a guidebook, Wannabe a Writer? doesn’t actually have that many technical tips. Sure, there are little gems here and there that should make it into your writer’s notebook and the section on story planning and organisation is most excellent, but for the most part, Wenham-Jones’ advice falls into the “one of my published friends says this, another says the exact opposite, and mine is a third way that was totally serendipitous and yet was also hard work and lots of perseverance so there’s no formula for this”. Which, I guess, is kinda true when it comes to something like writing a book but also isn’t all that helpful when you’re a newbie without any idea where to start.

What it does, and does really well, however, is entertain and inspire. Unlike many guidebooks which I stop reading after a while because they’re so textbook dry, Wannabe A Writer? is a breezy, quick read that kept me glued to it far longer than any nonfiction book has a right to. Also, it just makes me want to write. All the time. When she discussed a certain way to plan a storyline, I wanted to conjure up a huge piece of paper and start doodling down my ideas right there and then on the subway floor. When she talked about how she wrote a gazillion stories and sent them out to every fiction magazine ever (wish there were some in Singapore), I wanted nothing more than to get to my computer, churn out a short piece and shove a dozen copies into envelopes and post them out to any and everybody.

Just like with teachers, good guidebooks teach but the best ones inspire. Even if I didn’t learn a single practical thing from Wannabe a Writer? (and I did), the book has reaffirmed me that, despite all the authors warnings about the pitfalls of being a writer and being in the industry, I want to churn out that 100k word magnum opus more than ever.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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