Book review: The Writer’s Handbook 2011

‘The complete guide for all writers, publishers, editors, agents and broadcasters’ is back with a new edition – almost 800 dense pages of contacts, resources and advice. It’s for novelists, of course, and short-story writers too; poets, as well, and playwrights. But it’s what it has to offer non-fiction writers that concerns me for the …

Not investing in your career (Mistake #17)

I want to say upfront that in my experience British people are not cheap. They are quite happy to spend money on holidays, on home improvements, on clothes, on gadgets, on cars, on … pretty much anything. And they don’t only treat themselves. Brits are notoriously generous when it comes to, say, Christmas gifts and …

Admitting ignorance (Mistake #16)

A weird one this, but I’ve seen it a fair bit, so thought it deserved a few lines. As a writer, you must be authoritative. You might not be an expert in the subject about which you are writing, but for the duration of those 800 or 1,200 words, you need to act as if …

Ampersand Anarchy (Mistake #15)

Okay, it’s a pet hate, but it’s still wrong, and you really shouldn’t do it. This is the ampersand: &. It is stylised from the Latin word for and, which is et. It has very specific uses, and almost always exclusively in the context of proper names, such as in company names, in an artistic …

Unfinished business (Mistake #14)

“Make sure you complete things,” says motoring journalist and author Maria McCarthy, who also runs writing workshops and classes. “Don’t have lots of ‘beginnings’ stuffed in drawers.” The second I came across this tip I realised it was a winner. Maria was referring to fiction, as it happens, but it could easily be applied to …

Loose brackets (Mistake #13)

So: round brackets, properly known as parentheses. What are they used for? * to offer the reader an aside (which is a thoughtful thing to do); * to give an unimportant piece of information (in which only a few readers may be interested); * to offer extra information (such as a fuller explanation of a …

Mentioning your research (Mistake #10)

This will be obvious and second nature to many of you, but I see it often enough to justify an entry. Let’s take this extract from a fictitious article intended for a health magazine: When I spoke to dietitian Victoria Plum on the telephone, and asked her what she thought of the study into the …

“I can do better than that!” (Mistake #9)

You’re reading – a book, an article. And you hate it. “I can do better than that!” you sneer, tossing it aside. That’s not the mistake. The mistake is not letting your response go. Let me explain… Rubbish occasionally gets published. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Bad songs get recorded and sung, bad art …

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