Book review: How To Be a Writer by Sally O’Reilly

Many of us have aspirations to be an author but even when that first landmark book has been published, making a living out of writing can still be a huge stumbling block.

How To Be a Writer by Sally OReilly
How To Be a Writer by Sally OReilly

So what better than a comprehensive guide from a creative writing tutor to lead us through the minefield of writing from self-publishing and finding a flexible day job to social networking and making your finances stretch?

Sally O’Reilly draws on her experiences as a novelist and tutor in this informative and fascinating fact-filled book which is not just the definitive reference book for any author but also an invaluable guide to perils and pitfalls of the publishing industry.

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It’s one thing to become a writer… but being a writer is a whole new ball game. As established author Fay Weldon remarks in her Foreword, ‘There are dozens of books on the market telling you HOW to write, but none telling you what to do once you’ve proved you can.’

O’Reilly rightly points out that the assumption is that getting published is ‘like marrying the handsome prince at the end of a fairy tale – a happy ending’ when in fact it’s only the beginning.

Few writers will achieve the mythic status and brooding, intense and troubled character of big names like Ernest Hemingway and Emily Brontë, or the bank balance of the likes of J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown, so making ends meet and doing a bit of self-promotion are vital.

How To Be a Writer gathers comments and case studies from established authors, agents and industry experts as well as offering realistic advice on dealing with publishing professionals and accountants, and learning to sell your work ‘without feeling you are selling yourself.’

There are also tips on everything that a writer needs to know about running their own career, from time management and choosing an agent to café scribbling, and from filing a tax return and negotiating a contract to flirting with the literati.

O’Reilly’s no-nonsense and user-friendly approach to making a career out of writing is a breath of fresh air for anyone setting out into the weird and wonderful world of publishing, offering invaluable, down-to-earth advice and achievable goals.

Full of wise words and hard-learned experience, this is a must read for anyone even considering a serious writing career.

(Piatkus, paperback, £9.99)