You won't have to look far in the Amazon catalogue to find a host of books for writers with titles such as 'How to write a bestseller in 15 minutes a day', or 'Sell that script for $1 million tomorrow'. Michael Allen, by contrast, makes it clear that any such approach is dream-world fantasy. The most likely outcome of writing a novel, for example, is that you will not only waste a year in writing the thing, but that you will then waste another year, plus a lot of postage money, trying to interest agents and publishers who will mostly treat you as if you were a nuisance. In short, Michael Allen does his best to encourage you to be realistic about your chances of success. But if you are determined to be a writer, he suggests that you work out exactly what you are hoping to achieve, and he provides some extremely practical ways forward. He also provides some excellent advice on how to organise your time so that you actually get the book (or script etc) written. I could have done without the advice on diet, but that's a personal matter. Last, but not least, this book is a lot of fun to read. People who work in publishing might not laugh as much as I did, but then, as the author points out, the truth is seldom comfortable.
If you are serious about wanting to write and publish a novel, then this book provides both a government health warning and a wealth of tips and insights to guide you along the way. It should be required reading. Yes Michael is a grumpy old man. He is idiosyncratic and opinionated, and once he has a definite idea about something, well that's that. But his ideas on emotion and writing are brilliant and his analysis of the mainstream publishing scene pretty much bears out what I finally realised after 8 years - that unlike the world of scientific publishing, the mainstream business is run by amateurs. So thank you Michael for your book and your marvellous axioms. Long may you continue to be grumpy.