cover image Swallowed by a Whale: How To Survive the Writing Life

Swallowed by a Whale: How To Survive the Writing Life

Edited by Huw Lewis-Jones. British Library, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7123-5303-8

Sixty-four writers dole out advice to aspiring authors in this delightful collection of lists, mini essays, and whimsical cartoons compiled by British historian Lewis-Jones (The Sea Journal). “Finding the right words is like wading through glue,” Lewis-Jones opines, and the miscellany that follows balances practical advice with heartfelt guidance. Sally Nicholls offers a series of golden rules (an “idea is not the same thing as a plot,” for example), and replaces the standard directive to “write what you know” with “write what you love.” Anthony McGowan recommends not wasting time “describing things that don’t need to be described,” while Chibundu Onuzo concisely suggests, “Drink water... Eat vegetables... Sleep... Read.” Onjali Q. Raúf tells of the small red suitcase she keeps overstuffed with discarded memorabilia, and, for Tracy Chevalier, the “only kind of writing is rewriting.” Many others encourage writers to keep up their reading habits and not to get dissuaded: the last of Irvine Welsh’s 10 rules is “Disregard all of the above and find something that works for you.” Eminently entertaining, this handbook is sure to please. (Sept.)