Things I wish I'd understood years ago about being a writer

Over on Along the Write Lines I've been celebrating the launch of my third novel in a year. Needless to say, I didn't write them all in 2015 so any current success is due to a lot of previous writing in the wilderness. As every writer knows, it's tough out there so the occasional hint or signpost helps us stay on the trail.

Allowing for the possibility of the simultaneity of time (each that one, spell checker!), and the potential for influencing our past selves from the present, to create a better future (that is, current) outcome for ourselves, here is a little missive from me 'now' to me 'then' (circa 1980 something).

Hello. If you can see me, sorry about the hair. On the plus side, you'll save a fortune on all those combs you keep losing. 

You're obsessed with writing and you're still picking away at that fantasy novel of yours. Good, stick with it, but don't become too attached to the way it looks now. While I have your attention, here are some writing tips from your (probable) future.

You may want to jot them down in that notebook you carry around with you all the time...

1. Talking about writing isn't writing. Neither is wishing. The considerable time spent on both of those activities could be better applied on the page.

2. The first draft is play. After that, it's work. This means that if your first draft is really difficult there's something awry. Do you know your characters well enough? Are you really committed to this particular book? Do you know why it's so important to write this book now? Is there something else you'd rather be writing?

3. The first draft will be as rough as a cat's tongue, and that's perfectly okay. Don't get trapped in the perfection game.

4. Write about the things that matter to you, even the things that trouble you. No one else has to see it. And yes, I still remember you burning a book you wrote, in your teens, because someone looked at it without permission. Get a lockable cupboard, or a safe!

5. Invest in yourself and in your writing. GO TO NIGHT SCHOOL! If you start a course, bloody well finish it. You already try different types of writing, but go deeper. And don't expect too much from the songwriting thing. And keep the comedy notes.

6. Don't be afraid. On the page, I mean. Write whatever you damn well please. Unfair, sordid, longing, dark - get the words out and worry about the sense of it later. In fact, forget looking for any sense. They are just words. Rejoice in the power of self-expression for its own sake.

7. Seek out the company of other writers and learn from them. You can do that in writers' groups, in a library, or just by keeping your antenna primed. 

8. Lastly, don't wait for things to happen. Make them happen. And then write about them. See you in quite a few years!


Cause & Effect

A seemingly random attack on a child and a clinical assassination - neither one is any of Thomas Bladen's business, but all that is about to change. When his girlfriend Miranda's father calls in a favour, Thomas must use all his surveillance skills to investigate the attack for a man he despises. Jack Langton may be in prison now, but he is still pulling the strings and everybody's dancing. As Thomas delves deeper, he finds out the truth about Miranda's past and his investigation takes him closer to the dark heart of the shadow state.

Other books about Thomas Bladen and the Surveillance Support Unit.