To Writers with Love, Mary Wibberley

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In a bid to share as many useful writing aids as I can, I will be posting reviews of popular books about writing over the next few weeks (as I plod through them, time permitting).

To Writers with Love, published in 1985, is still relevant today. Sadly the lovely Mary Wibberley is no longer here, but her legacy lives on in this book, as well as the 48 romance novels she wrote for Mills & Boon.

Inside the book we find advice on plotting, character development and how to start your novel.  Much more than that though, it is filled with tidbits and experiences from being a top selling romance writer.  Mary explains how she came to be an author and shows the process from writing your first word to publishing it.

It took her seven years and seven books to get published, but she persevered, and thank goodness she did!

“The writing flowed, no hesitation, no mental blocks, just a glorious certainty as the words came spilling out on to the paper, and oh how I enjoyed writing it!”

Her dialogue advice, using excerpts from her own works, is as interesting as it is instructive. The chapter on romance novelists, which contains interviews with several writers from the eighties, is fascinating.

“It is essential, especially at the beginning, that the dialogue and narrative are interspersed so that the reader is informed painlessly of both setting and circumstances.”

Obviously certain parts have become a bit dated.  The chapter on heat levels is more suited to books published in the seventies/eighties.  Whilst her advice on subtlety, building up heat levels etc., is absolutely spot on, she makes it very clear that she doesn’t approve of lots of naughty goings on.  I’m not sure what she would have made of the Fifty shades of Grey era!

“But is it necessary to describe in lurid detail what is essentially a very private act? Some writers think so. Many do not.”

There is also a chapter about declaring your VAT, which, despite discussing the tax advantages of typewriter repair, is probably just as relevant today as it was back then, with the basis of the advice being, ‘get yourself an accountant’.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  As an unpublished writer I need books about writing to answer my questions and give me solid, useful advice.  Mary does this, and more, in a perfectly delightful way.  She understands the neurotics of being a writer, but at the same time regularly reminds you that to get published you have to actually sit down and write. Mary isn’t accepting any of your lame excuses!

“Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes, if I had to. I’d decided that nothing was going to stop me – and it didn’t. So please, don’t let anything stop you. You will find out why for yourself. Good luck new writer.”

My copy of  To Writers with Love (Buchan and Enright, 1987) came from my mum’s local charity shop, but you can find second hand copies on Amazon and other online dealers.

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