Book Review: How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

How I Became a Famous NovelistHow I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Satire is always fun. There is something so rewarding about taking the piss out of someone, something or society. The problem with satire is either that the target often doesn’t have much of a sense of humour or that the joke is just dragged out too far. One of the greatest works of satire, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, is a great example of how writers can sometimes labour a joke/point too much, whilst being absolute geniuses.

Steve’s satire of the literary industry is right on the money. From the biting examples of literary drivel, to the examples of writers and the claims by industry figures that no-ones knows anything about books, Hely has hit the mark. I’m sure if I actually read much literary fiction I’d even recognise the books and writers who were satirised.

So it pains me to give this book only 3 stars, but I really had to. There were bits I had to skim over, especially in the second half of the book. Some of the literary satire pieces were too close to the truth for me, essentially making for boring reading. And, as I have already alluded, the book relies on one joke. This is still very well done, an enjoyable read, but it does suffer the fate of many pieces of satire, hence only 3 stars from me.

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Novel ideas

I’m about to start rewrites on my first novel – Overturned Stones – after receiving feedback from a few people. The feedback has been very positive and it appears that even people who wouldn’t normally read thrillers loved the book.

Of course there are changes needed. A first draft always needs a second draft. One thing that a reviewer didn’t like was my disclaimer. Obviously I wrote the disclaimer below when I had intended to self-publish the novel. I’ve since reassessed that idea, thinking that my novel would fit in with what publishers are looking for, so I might as well see if they are interested. Anyway, the reviewer didn’t think I was taking the disclaimer seriously enough:

I’d like to point out that this work is entirely fictional. Where possible I have tried to be as vague and inaccurate as possible so as not to have anything I’ve written be misconstrued as being related to any person or organisation that exists in reality land. If I have inexplicably managed to use a real person’s or organisation’s name or allusions that would suggest it could be them, then it was entirely unintentional and I hope that you get over it. If I have offended you, or anyone you know, with my written word, you can send a stamped self-addressed envelope to me and I will send, via return mail, 30 cents for you to call and complain to someone who cares.

As the recent Oatmeal debacle shows, some people, mainly lawyers, take things far too seriously. The fact that we need disclaimers for fictional work, let alone that they are serious, shows that people have very thin skins. Obviously we have people, like Michael Crichton, who blithely ignore Wheaton’s Law and hide behind the label of fiction to be insulting to real people and organisations. But those people are jerks, we’re meant to ignore them. The rest of the time we need to have a sense of humour and enjoy fiction, especially since it isn’t real.

Writing disorders can hurt those you love