As a late Christmas present to myself, I ordered a copy of If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. Amazon is nice in that I was able to preview the book. The table of contents seemed promising, so I ordered it. The fact that the “look inside” featured a previous edition of the book should have tipped me off. I received my copy and it was horrible. I’m a very visual person so bad formatting can keep me from reading a book. This one had it all, grammatical errors on the back cover, too large margins, tiny font and the first two pages were missing. That’s right folks, NO TABLE OF CONTENTS. I can’t help but wonder if this is a self published book, BN Publishing’s website turned up little information.
So it took me a couple of days to get off my formatting high horse and give this book a read. I got as far as page six, technically page four in my copy, when I spotted this little gem: “Families are great murderers of the creative impulse, particularly husbands.” This seemed a rather sexist and limited comment so I read a little further on to see if she elaborated further, but no other mention was made.
To be fair, the book was written in 1938, twenty five years before The Feminine Mystique. Although the book shows no evidence of being targeted towards women who want to write, perhaps back then only women writers would read a book about writing by a female author. Maybe it’s a generational issue but this book is not a timeless classic. It shows its age within the first few pages. I decided that the book was not worth reading and, because I was missing two pages, I was able to return it to Amazon.
There you have it. Now, if you are interested in finding out how to correctly format a self-published book check out the February issue of The Writer. Moira Allen has a great formatting article.