• Maree

2 Min Book Review: How to Be a Writer by John Birmingham

Updated: Jul 22, 2019


The good:

- His uncensored, humorous and imaginative flow of advice, personal experience and teachings makes this book hard to put down. It is more like receiving advice from an old friend over drinks than a book, perhaps, as he mentions, due to him using dictation software at points. He is wonderfully engaging and encouraging, but realistic.

- John Birmingham is an Australian author and so, this was very helpful to me. His recommendations, particularly for freelance work and editors were relevant.

- He refers to Star Wars.

- There’s a broad range of topics from freelancing, building a platform, interview skills, importance of reading and imagination, writer’s block, self doubt, agents, technology, defamation, creating ebooks, marketing, navigating Amazon, fame, routines, distractions

- He would be fantastic at writing pitches. I keep looking up books he describes, as he makes them sound so good. My To-Be-Read stack has grown so much.

- I have jotted down many pages of notes for the future- a good sign.

- The chapter on planning and preparation techniques was particularly helpful, especially the reminder how planning (plot, structure) and preparation (research, note taking, interviews, worldbuilding etc.) are different.

-The Pomodoro technique for time management looks like it should rock. It's worth a try.


The bad:

- If you’re not fond of profanity, this book is probably not for you.

- I really enjoyed the chapter on imagination and there are many helpful insights for writing as a craft, but I would have liked to see more on world/character building and his opinions on what makes good story telling (although he did mention to stay close to the human experience).



Favourite points/quotes:

- We are in the second ‘Golden Age of Reportage’ due to online media.

- Eisenhower’s list of ‘important and urgent’ to help decide what work to focus on and in what order.

- The section describing how different authors: Charlie Brooker (Black Mirror), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) and George R. R. Martin, came up with their ideas.

- ‘Architects do blueprints…But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up’, George R. R. Martin.



4 stars

Published: 2016

Read: May 2019

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