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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Review: The ABC Checklist for New Writers

I was kindly sent a review copy of this new book for writers by Lorraine Mace and Maureen Vincent-Northam, both of whom I know are readers of this blog. The book's full title is The ABC Checklist for New Writers - How to Open Doors and Get Noticed the First Time Around, and it is published by Orana Publishing Limited (2007). The book's ISBN is 978-0-9550751-7-9.

I'd better get one admission out of the way first. I have a certain prejudice against books such as this where the content is organised alphabetically (apart from dictionaries, of course!). The effect is almost inevitably that the book zig-zags from topic to topic, and is difficult to sit down and read from start to finish. And even looking up particular subjects isn't always as straightforward as you might wish, if the writers have chosen a different way to organise the material from what you expect.

Lorraine and Maureen have done their best to counter this problem by including a full list of contents at the start and plenty of cross-references throughout the book - so, for example, under the subject heading Cliches you will find the direction to 'see also Consistency, Dialogue, Final Checks, Originality and The X Factor' (don't worry, the latter is nothing to do with Simon Cowell's TV show!). Even so, incongruities do exist. I looked in vain for Copyright - one of the key topics that worries new writers - under 'C', only eventually to discover it as a sub-heading of the section 'Legal'. A conventional index at the back of the book would have helped.

With that reservation out of the way, however, I have to say that this book is very good indeed. It is beautifully produced in trade paperback format, very readably set out, and extremely well written and edited. The book includes lots of practical advice on topics that often puzzle new writers, including manuscript layout, agents, vanity publishers, writers' groups, research, multiple submissions, invoicing, and many more. The advice is concise but helpful, and at the end of each article there is a handy bullet-point summary.

To some extent the book also serves as a writer's style guide, and includes articles on setting out dialogue (which can be a minefield for new fiction writers), grammar, punctuation, spelling, and so on. Inevitably the book cannot go into great detail on these huge topics, but the advice given is sound enough, even though it may not always address the particular question you want answered!

It is interesting to compare this book with another title aimed at new writers, The Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World by Linda Jones, which I reviewed recently in this post. The two books are quite different, but both are very good. Linda's book contains some great 'inside tips' based on her long experience as a freelance journalist and PR, and will probably do more to inspire you. On the other hand, The ABC Checklist for New Writers is a very good general reference book for new (and not-so-new) writers, and I suspect that buyers will refer to it more often from day to day. If I was a new writer, I would definitely want both of these titles on my bookshelf.

The ABC Checklist for Writers can be ordered from any bookshop or the Internet store (see image above). It is aimed at UK writers, but much of the advice would be equally relevant to writers in other countries. At the end of the book, and out of alphabetical order, are short sections of useful addresses, awards and prizes (all UK and Ireland based), a glossary of writing terms, and resource lists of books, magazines and websites. Incidentally, the latter includes the excellent Writelink forum run by Sue Kendrick, but not my own forum at I hope that Lorraine and Maureen will rectify this in the next edition!

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Anonymous Lorraine Mace said...

Thank you for a very balanced and rounded review - and yes, in future editions we shall certainly correct our oversight in not including your forum in our list of websites. We deliberately kept the 'Additional Information' section separate to the alphabetically arranged entries because we wanted the main book to focus on things writers would need to look up.

We'll certainly look at your suggestion of having a conventional index, as well. Yours is the first review to mention it, but that doesn't mean more reviewers won't in the future.

Thanks again, Nick.


11:15 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

No problem, Lorraine. Glad you didn't think I was too harsh! Overall, as I have said in the review, I was very impressed with this book. I hope it sells as well as it deserves.

11:24 AM  

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