Bucket List – Become a writer.


Write your book now while you still have faith in yourself.

Last night I was thinking about why the hell I started writing in the first place. Was it for the fame and money and groupies? I doubt it, even then I knew a) no-one really cares if you’re a writer b) there’s not that much crazy-money in publishing c) yeah…have you seen what most authors look like?

I do remember having an inflated sense of my own ability. I thought I could write, or at least I could write better than I could do anything else (This laughable misconception has since been beta-ed out of me). And if we’re going to be honest, if I had known back then how shit I actually was, and how hard I’d have to work to get readable prose, I wouldn’t even have bothered.

So, start writing while you still have that wide-eyed belief in your own ability. And keep on improving as the truth slowly dawns. Here then my *ahem* rules for being a writer.

You don’t have to be Stephen King and tap out 2000 words of deathless prose a day. (let’s face it, he’s Stephen King, this is his fucking day job). It does help if you write rather than talk about writing. And if you manage 250 words of crap a day, you’re still ahead of the guy at the party talking about that Great Novel he’s going to write. Next year.

Accept that everything you write will read like crap tomorrow. Hell, it will probably read like crap today. It IS crap. That’s what rewriting and revising is for. Get that crap down. If you don’t, you can’t edit anything.

Write what makes you happy. Trends? Fuck ’em. Your character is a massive Mary Sue. SO WHAT? You like to play with language and drop philosophical cookies in your narrative. DO IT. If you aren’t interested in the story you’re writing, you can be pretty sure that no-one else is going to be either. Worrying about pacing and characterisation and plot and all that other stuff can come later. (Unless you need scaffolding, in which case, plot away)

Write the way you want to. With a soundtrack, in deathly silence, in order, out of order, skip the parts that bore you (and leave them skipped, because they’ll probably bore everyone else too). Write until you reach the end. Wait a bit before plunging into edits. Or don’t wait. No-one is sitting there judging you on your process (well, there are people like that, but you really don’t want to care what they say because I mean really.)

Don’t forget life. It’s full of interesting things. Go out, have fun, talk to people about themselves.

Revise until your book looks like a book. If you’re uncertain about how to revise and rewrite, go get yourself a bunch of books to use as signposts (here’s a list of some that may help*).

Get involved with writers you trust for some mutual critique.

And then, if what you’ve got looks good, query and forget about it while you start on the next book.

Accept that the chances of selling that debut novel are miniscule.

Get better with every book.

Read more.

*These books are just a few of my suggestions. They may help, they may not. None of them are bibles. They’re just…other people’s methods. Take what works for you, shove the rest.

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook – Donald Maas

Self-editing for Fiction Writers – Renni Browne

Beginnings, Middles and Ends – Nancy Kress

On Becoming a Novelist – John Gardner

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