2 out of 4 stars
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The Life and Lessons of a Young Author, by Sunayna Prasad, details her experiences in writing and publishing. It's a short, snappy read that comes it at around 30 pages, depending on how you count them.
I think that Prasad had two goals going into The Life and Lessons of a Young Author: To retell her own story, and to provide advice on writing and getting your writing published. As a young writer myself, only a couple of years younger than Prasad, who gives her age as 25, I was curious to crack this one open and see what she had to say.
The first question I had was “Who is this and why should I take their advice?” I think that's a good place to start when it comes to this kind of pseudo-memoir, let-me-tell-you-how-it's-done book. Prasad, though, has two books to her name, both of which she's upfront about having removed from the market due to “very little success”. One book was self-published, something that I think we can all agree carries no inherent guarantee of quality, and the other was “published” by a “publisher” that apparently saw fit to “publish” the second book with a plain white cover. That's the most confusing part to me, as any publisher worth their salt will have invested in your book; if they don't care enough to give you even a minimal cover, what are they doing that you couldn't?
Ultimately, I didn't see anything to justify Prasad's self-styled authority. Two books she's happy with, a plethora of trunked projects from the early days, and an admitted lack of success are not solid foundations for a book that promises to give advice. There are countless authors under 25 with the same story of not hitting the big time, and not a massive shortage of authors under 25 who did hit the big time.
All of that said, I have zero issue with the advice Prasad gives. She seems to know how the publishing industry works, and she seems to know how beta-reading and the actual nuts and bolts of writing work. At no point did I disagree with her actual advice, but I also don't think it's anything you couldn't get from loitering on a writers' forum for a few weeks, reading and asking questions. Much of the advice is fundamentally surface level, such as advising you to print out your work and proofread it repeatedly, or to avoid giving it to friends and family for critique, or even to make sure that your protagonist struggles and is imperfect. The basic pipeline of “Writer-Agent-Publisher-Reader” is covered but basic is exactly what it is.
I give The Life and Lessons of a Young Author 2 out of 4 stars. It's fine. If you're an absolute newbie to writing, you could do much worse than reading this. At the same time, if you're not an absolute newbie you'll probably know every piece of advice this book contains and more. From a biographical perspective it's not particularly interesting because, as Prasad very clearly says, she has seen very little success. At 30 pages and for a dollar or two it might be worth a look if you are a newbie, but if you're not, don't bother.
The Life and Lessons of a Young Author
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