I am a pretend writer. No, really, I am. I have completed two novels (short ones) which are either not quite good enough to be published, or are simply shit. Perhaps they just need some more work, or perhaps they need an incinerator. One day I’m sure that I’ll work out which is the correct path. I have long ago run dry on my blog The Dregs of History and none of my self-published satirical manuals have sold that well, if at all. Shit happens.
But (I know that stating a sentence with ‘but’ is frowned upon, but fuck it, this is my piece of writing so I’ll do what I want) I do want to get better, so I occasionally read a book about writing rather than piece of fiction. I am assuming they are not fiction too.
Of the books that I have read about writing, two stand out. The first one of these is On Writing by Stephen King. This is a wonderful insight into how he writes and the hurdles he has overcome to get where he is. It is a combination of autobiography and writer’s assistant. The second is a book I have just recently read – How to Be a Writer by John Birmingham. They are very different books.
How to Be a Writer is both entertaining and enlightening, with many handy hints (I hope I never have to resort to his suggestion of writing an erotic letter to Eric Abetz as a way of combating writer’s block) and insights from other writers. I may even get the suggested dictation software. Looks good.
At its heart, this book is a written in short easily digestible chapters. There is no over-long explanations of things, no self-indulgent tangents that lack relevance, and no bullshit about your chances of success. There is, however, lots of humour, lots honest advice about the amount of effort required, and good solid advice about the joys of being a poet (I can speak from experience when I tell you that this chapter is spot on). It is an easy read, just as a novel should be. Not too much requirement for huge contemplation (at least not unless you really don’t know yourself that well and this book has caused a light-bulb moment) and no boring bits. Lots of published novelists could learn a lot from reading this book – it’s a lot of fun.
How to Be a Writer covers writing novels, columns, articles, and even has short section on what expect as a poet. It covers such areas as a writer’s special media presence, endorsement of other writers, some useful technology info, how not to get sued, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Most of all though, it got me a bit more enthused about going back to my novels and cutting the shit of them before putting them back together again. This has been useful and fun. They might even end up as novellas available as ebooks.
And hey, pretend writer of not, How to Be a Writer got me off my arse to write this blogpost after a long hiatus filled with posting half-baked songs instead of prose. Cheers JB. Much appreciated.