19 October 2007

The only book a writer will ever need

Review: The Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World, by Linda Jones

When my review copy of this nifty tome fell into my "Grub Street" hands, I was startled at how small it is. Not having encountered a “Greatest Tips” book before, I had been expecting a full-size paperback weighing at least 500g. It’s a hardback, in fact, but compact and neat enough to fit into my handbag.

Don’t be fooled by its diminutive size, though. This book packs a wealth of information into its pages and is of far greater value than many bigger, textbook “how to” guides on freelancing.

What I really like about Jones’ book is that she speaks plainly – there’s a wonderful no-nonsense air about the advice and tips she offers. Right from the get-go, she warns there’s no place to hide if you want to write as a freelance and that a reality check is the first port of call. From such auspicious beginnings, Jones covers a huge amount of territory in a compact manner – from reminding you that you are running a business (rather than being an artist in a garret), with all the paperwork that involves, to letting editors know you exist (and how to get them to hire you) via writing for magazines, the nationals or the internet, which all need very different approaches.

Interspersed throughout are lots of handy checklists, bullet points to remind you of essentials, obscure but interesting facts and useful chapter summaries. I also love the pithy quotes about writing by famous authors from Sylvia Plath to James Michener. I can’t begin to detail just how many valuable tips are stuffed in here – many of them cover ground that I learned the hard way over the course of my career (when a book like this would have saved me much grief). Obviously, newcomers to the trade of professional writing would be wise to invest in this book if only to avoid some of the more common pitfalls than can happen to the inexperienced. But even the most seasoned hacks should find enough in here to inspire them, remind them or encourage them. Of all the books on freelancing and writing I have sitting on my groaning bookshelf next to my desk, I strongly suspect that The Greatest Freelancing Writing Tips in the World is the one that will end up the most thumbed, dog-eared and used, simply because it’s the most practical.

And don't forget Linda's blog either - it's crammed full of yet more useful advice, tips and guidance to keep you on your toes (and your bank manager happy).

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