Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Wannabe a Writer?

If so, read on...

I am hosting Jane Wenham-Jones on my blog today, with her new book Wannabe a Writer?

Jane Wenham-Jones is a novelist, journalist and presenter and the author of the Wannabe Books - two how-to manuals on getting published and becoming well-known.

Practical, personal and honest advice on how to get published with contributions from over a hundred authors, agents, publishers and journalists. Hear from the professionals on how to sell your articles, write a synopsis, find an agent, get your novel accepted and much, much more. With insights, anecdotes and hot tips from Frederick Forsyth, Jilly Cooper, Ian Rankin, Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Adele Parks, Lesley Pearse, Michael Buerk, Carole Matthews, Erica James, Mil Millington, Miles Kington, Michael Bywater, Rosie Millard, Robert Crampton, Richard Morrison, Simon Trewin, Jonathan Lloyd, Teresa Chris and Jane Judd as well as publishers Harper Collins, Hodder Headline, Transworld, Orion and Simon & Schuster. A must-have handbook for anyone who's ever wanted to write or just wants to hear how others to do it... Where do you start? How do you finish? And will anyone ever publish it when you have? Drawing on her own experiences as a novelist and journalist, Writing Magazine's agony aunt Jane Wenham-Jones takes you through the minefield of the writing process, giving advice on everything from how to avoid Writers' Bottom to what to wear to your launch party. Wannabe a Writer? tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the book world - and a few things you didn't...

 Below is an extract from Wannabe a Writer?, available on Amazon or through all good bookshops. For more on Jane see http://www.janewenham-jones.com.

So you think you’ve got a book in you?
Everyone has a book in them. This is a myth put about by taxi drivers who invariably think their own life story would make the greatest best-seller of them all. It wouldn’t. And even if one does have the sort of exciting and chequered past that would make a hair-raising piece of fiction, one is not necessarily equipped with the talent to write it.
 It is a strange thing that few people assume, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, that they can paint pictures worthy of the Royal Academy, sing like Pavarotti  or play the guitar like Segovia.
Yet all sorts of otherwise sensible beings imagine that if they only had the time they could knock out 90,000 words that would get snapped up by the publishing world and then fallen upon by a grateful public.
Writing a decent short story is hard enough. Writing a book can be excruciating. There are those who are fond of making comparisons between writing a book and giving birth. The analogy is supposed to centre around the nine months and the pushing and the wonder of creation at the end of it.
For me, it is the fact that you forget the sheer agony and the fact that you longed to castrate your husband with the forceps, and actually start to believe it didn't hurt that much and it would be a jolly idea to do it again.
And when you do, second time around is even worse. It never gets any easier. It is a terrible, all-consuming, neurosis-inducing way to earn a living.
On the other hands it has its advantages. You can turn up to collect your child from school still wearing your pyjamas and slippers and other parents  will only whisper “she’s a writer, you know” instead of thinking you’re being taken care of in the community.
You can ask all sorts of personal questions and friends will be flattered to think you are using them for research instead of getting all pissed off at how nosey you are.
And you can stare out of the window for hours on end with a strange expression on your face and a glass in your hand and pretend you’re working.
Earning money, after all, isn’t everything (if you think any differently, don’t try and be a writer).  But before you start, are you the right personality-type to attempt to write a book? Try this quiz and see:

Quiz: Have you got what it takes to write it?
1. Overall, how would you describe yourself?
 A) You are a healthy outdoorsy type who believes in fresh air, plenty of exercise, eight hours sleep and three square meals a day  -    (0 points)
B) You love Eastenders and The X-Factor, animals and small children. You are interested in others and think the secret of a happy life is a matter of give and take  - (5 points)
C) You are quite capable of spending sixteen hours slumped in the same position at your desk while chain-smoking. (15 points)

2. On your desk is:
A)    A notepad, a pen, a ruler, a bottle of mineral water and a small potted cactus  -  (0 points)
B)     All the above plus some unpaid bills, a pile of letters you really must answer soon and several post-it notes with telephone numbers on them from people you’re going to call back  -  (5 points)
C)     Books, more books, an overflowing ashtray, an empty wine bottle, a packet of nurofen, five highlighter pens, several lists, a telephone directory, last night’s pizza crust and an article you cut out of Sunday’s paper about venereal disease. Cat hairs, lipstick, batteries, dictaphone, camera, four notebooks, tippex, condoms and a two foot pile of paper that you haven’t got to the bottom of since 1986  -   (20 points) 
3. You are in the High Street when an old lady is knocked over by a bicycle
Do you
A)     Call 999 from your mobile, cover her with your jacket and begin mouth to mouth resuscitation  -  (0 points)
B)     Scream loudly, wave your arms to attract attention and carry out a citizen’s arrest on the cyclist until the police arrive - (1 point)
C)    Borrow an onlooker’s camera phone to photograph the scene, make a quick diagram of the blood stains on the back of a fag packet and start interviewing the bike rider : this could be very good background info for chapter twenty-seven… (25 points) 

4. When you were at school were you:
A) The class bookworm, editor of the school magazine and winner of the English prize three years running?   (10 points)
B)  Often in trouble for talking in class, caught smoking behind the bike sheds and eventually expelled for having a torrid affair with the French teacher? (15 points)  
C) You didn’t go to school much. You lived in crushing poverty with ten siblings and only attended lessons every second Thursday when it was your turn to wear the only pair of shoes. (30 points)

5. What is your favourite daydream?
A) You win the lottery, give up work and while away your days sipping champagne on the white sands of the Bahamas  (0 points)
B) You lose three stone, have a face-lift and get swept off your feet by (women) a gorgeous romantic, muscle-bound hunk or (men) a huge-breasted blonde of twenty-one who wants you to be her sex slave. (5 points)
C) You are sitting on the sofa with Richard and Judy after making  your acceptance speech for the Booker prize. (20 points)
6. What is your general philosophy on Diet?
      A) Even if it is just you, you eat at set times and  cook a proper meal with fresh vegetables. (2 points)
     B)  You try to eat well but if you’re really busy you’ll have a quick sandwich at your desk. Cooking is so time-consuming. (10 points)
     C) If you realise you’ve had nothing but chocolate, crisps and cans of cider for more than a week, you take a vitamin pill. (20 points)

7. How much exercise do you do?
A) A healthy body makes for a healthy mind. You go to the gym three times a week, play tennis, jog and wear a pedometer so you can check you’ve done  your 10,000 steps a day. (3 points)
B) You walk the dog most mornings and do a bit of yoga when you remember.  (10 points)
C) You are occasionally forced to sprint to the postbox on the corner at five-thirty so you can catch the last post. (You then have a lie-down) (15 points)

8. How clean is your house?
A) Very clean. All it takes to keep on top of it, is  a quick run-round with the hoover and a damp duster before work each morning and a proper going-over at the weekends. (0 points)
B) You do the important bits  -  e.g. kitchens and bathrooms for hygiene reasons - but really can’t be worrying about the rest of it until the dust begins to show. Life’s short. You’d much rather read a book or write a letter. (5 points)
C) Nobody’s died yet. (15 points)

9. You have an important report to write for work that your boss needs a week on Friday. Do you?
A) Sit straight down and do it all. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. (0 points)
B)  Work an hour on it each day until it’s finished. Build in a day for checking it over and making any minor alterations before giving it in. (15 points)
C) Think about it all the time, but leave any actual writing until Thursday at 9pm. Sit up all night to finish it, drinking double espresso and slapping yourself round the face to stay awake. (25 points)      

10. What is your partner most likely to shout at you in a row?
 A) You never listen! (5 points)
 B) You never talk to me! (5 points)
 C) We never go anywhere! (5 points)
 D) All of these, plus reminders you that you are selfish, egocentric, bad-tempered, self-obsessed, given to scribbling notes at inopportune moments and making strange muttering noises, that you miss mealtimes, forget appointments, shout at the children when they want to use your computer and you haven’t had a proper holiday for ten years. (40 points)   

Now add up your score. Add 120 bonus points if you can say yes to any of the statements below:

- I am a famous celebrity
- I am a famous footballer
- I am a famous footballer’s wife who weighs six stone
- I have won Big Brother
- I have not won Big Brother but I have been on the programme showing my  enhanced breasts/sex-change scars/predilection for vibrating toys or displaying  some sort of dysfunctional behaviour and then shagging the person who did win   it, live on camera.
- I am an MP who’s been in prison.         

0  -  30 points  I would never be discouraging enough to say you cannot be a writer because it takes all sorts, but this choice of career may come as a bit of a shock. Have you thought about taking up embroidery, golf or train-spotting?

31- 60 points  While you’re still displaying worrying signs of normality, there are some flashes of potential here. At least you have a bit of life experience to write about.

61  -  200  You show definite promise and could develop well as a writer given the right circumstances and encouragement. 

Over 200 points  -  you’re probably a writer already. If not  -  get typing  now!

Over 300  -  you are probably in prison.

Wannabe a Writer website

Buy links:

Amazon UK (Paperback)

Amazon UK (Kindle)

Amazon US (Paperback)

Amazon US (Kindle)

The Book Depository

Thanks for stopping by Jane. I'm sure many aspiring Authors will find this book helpful.

Incidentally folks, my score on that quiz fell into the 'you show definite promise' category, lol. 


  1. Loved this, so funny> Book sounds good - off to Amazon to look!

  2. and i bet i can guess where most of ucw are in this....