WILF: ‘How to be a Writer’ by John Birmingham

There are a lot of ‘how to write’ books out that claim to help you get better at writing.  Some of them focus on the mechanics of story craft, on how to make your stories sparkle and avoid the potentially planet sized plot holes that will sink you.

John Birmingham’s book is not one of those.

Instead, he assumes that you can actually muck about with the craft itself and get something done. What he does is give you ways to make sure you actually put your bum in the chair and do it. And have some idea what to do when you have done it. Birmingham’s tip, get an agent.

As an Australian, it was a really delightful change to be able to understand the author of a book like this. So many times, the fact that our system isn’t the American model means I lose connection with a writing book. We can get sued for defamation on our little blogs, even if no one really sees them. But Birmingham delivers his advice in a blunt, humorous, swearing honesty that made me feel right at home. Nothing quite like someone calling out your distractions in coarse, but appropriate terms to make you re-evaluate why you’re really haunting Facebook pages… The answer is procrastination, just in case you were wondering. Well, that and self-doubt. Birmingham has great advice on both those in ‘nail down your working routine’ and ‘kick self-doubt in the dick’ chapters respectively.

If you want a book to tell you how you’re a special snowflake and you can do anything, including win Nobel Prizes, this book is applicable as long as you’re okay with the humour. Birmingham assumes you’re going to write to the best of your ability, wherever that takes you. If you just get on with it and do the hard work.

If you want a book to make you snort at inappropriate moments on the train, and make you consider whipping up a blog post or chapter or competition entry instead of getting into yet another Facebook fight, this is for you.

Want to cram writing in around the rest of your life? This man has the tips to add to your arsenal. And the swear words to make them stick in there. Did I mention the self-doubt chapter? Nothing like referring to that as the Phallus of Doubt to make it easier to tell it to get stuffed when it’s in the way, or brace yourself for when it’s time to start editing.

I have a feeling I really will come back to this book so often it will get tattered, and while the stains may be tea instead of booze, Birmingham provides exactly what is advertised. A no nonsense, honest, hilariously over-the-top guide to ‘write like a motherfucker’.


One thought on “WILF: ‘How to be a Writer’ by John Birmingham

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