David Quantick is a professional writer who has worked in almost every field: journalism, novels, radio and TV scriptwriting, helping Eddie Izzard with his autobiography, etc. He also is a writer for the world’s first internet sitcom. In How to Write Everything he talks about his craft, and if it’s in an area he’s not active in himself he interviews someone who is. The book is written in a humorous style.
His experience in and knowledge of the world of broadcast humour is well demonstrated in his passages about sitcoms, how to structure them, what the myths are etc.
The subjects/chapters are: Introduction, What is Writing?, Ideas and Where They Come From, Books and Publishing, Comedy and Performance, Writing Comedy, Films, Writing a Script and So On, Plays, Journalism, Poetry, Afterword., Bibliography, and Appendix. This last is an obscene anecdote told by Sir John Gielgud – for the text go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gielgud and scroll down to Note 18. In the book it is recorded that it is during the Hamlet soliloquy that the great man unfortunately pauses.
In the Introduction the author states that “I WILL REVEAL THE SECRETS OF WRITING. (Secret Number One: there are no secrets. Wait, come back…)”
There are few technical tips on wordcraft for budding writers in the book, but he does hammer home two general messages:
Put in the hours; and
Read the instructions.
In Chapter 1, for example, he stresses that you should write (every day if possible) and not wait for the Muse to call. Actually doing the writing may indeed encourage the Muse to call. And if there’s a house style for the publication you’re writing for, follow it. Furthermore, deadlines are good for you. They’ll make you do the work.
In Chapter 2, on Where Ideas Come From, his message is Keep Thinking. Ideas come from all directions, but you can help them come by not sitting at your desk just trying to make them come. Write yourself notes whenever a possible idea beckons.
Try your work on friends – as long as they will be critical and won’t just say your work is wonderful.
When trying to get an agent or a publisher interested – good presentation is essential. Follow the instructions on formatting to the letter.
So, there’s no short cut to writing success. Put the hours in is the book’s message. I think we all feared that that was the case, but it’s salutary to have it emphasised by an experienced professional.
How to Write Everything by David Quantick. Published in 2014 by Oberon Books. ISBN 978-1-78319-103-1 £12-99