In this never ending struggle to get words onto paper we have to celebrate the small wins when they happen. So…yay me, I’ve finally finished that short fiction piece I was supposed to have published back in November. (Admittedly, I did have a data-loss meltdown that made me question my whole existential being and philosophy on life…ha-ha-ha, yeah, right!!! I did get pretty mad though.)
When it’s back from the editor and up on Amazon I’ll have self-pubbed a gargantuan 15k words-ish. When people say you need to become the vampire to write the vampire novel, I totally get what they’re saying. I’d literally need to live as long as a vampire to get a novel-length work finished, with the caveat that no one sticks a splintery piece of wood through my heart. It’s not that I’ve had a laissez-faire attitude to writing, more an absurd notion that you had to wait for the muse to find you, instead of hunting her down with sharpened pencils and 17 metric tons of coffee. After all, I was still young…I was in no rush…
*Whispers so no-one will hear* …I’m 40 this year!!!
Nowadays I try to stick to a routine, but I can’t seem to shake off the panster in me (if it isn’t those damn Writing Death Monkeys it’s some interloping metaphorical hippy that’s taken up residence in your prime cerebral real estate). Don’t know what in gods name I’m babbling on about? Check out Chuck Wendig’s inimitable blog for some insight into what it means to be a panster.
Now, I don’t profess to being an expert when it comes to writing–far from it. In the grand scheme of things I’m still at junior school, the learning will go on. But I have been fumbling around at it for a pretty long time and figured I’d share a few little insights of my own. Take from it what you will.
So here goes…
The Five Golden-Nuggets I wish I’d known twenty years ago.
1. Having a filing cabinet to itemise and store all the random bits of paper you’ve ever scribed on, as well as the countless unfinished projects you assumed a filing cabinet would help you finish, is not going to help you get things finished. I’m telling you, get rid of them anyway you can. Type them up, burn them, chew them into little spitballs and fire them though an empty biro at your neighbours…it doesn’t matter. Just don’t keep them for twenty years hoping they’ll magically meld into the world’s greatest novel, because a multitude of writers who don’t have filing cabinets will have cornered that market by the time you get done. Get stuff written and finished and leave the filing cabinet for your tax returns and your secret chocolate stash.
2. There’s always some fancy app or writing tool that promises to write that book for you–think feather quill,biro, typewriter. But in the end there’s only one person you can rely on… a ghost writer! Just kidding…its you, stupid. (Btw…I’m not really calling you stupid. That would be stupid. And rude. And I want you to come back. So friends?) Oh, and a further note of warning about technology. BACK UP! BACK UP! BACK UP! And be wary of magical syncing apps…I’m looking at you Apple Notes…(Evernote is pretty hard to beat in my opinion).
3. Quitting your job will not necessarily buy you the GOLDEN TICKET to a fruitful writing career, unless Faber and Faber have given you a six figure advance on your wizard school series. I took a voluntary redundancy six years ago to be a stay-at-home dad and write (and because they were set to relocate my ass farther away from where they’d already relocated it -and that’s my literal ass not my anatomical one), but that little pipe-dream lasted all of about eight months. I can safely say that worrying about getting time to write is a lot less traumatic than wondering how to pay your mortgage, or feed your kids, or maintain your Babestation subscription…Damn auto-correct, I obviously don’t have Babestation. Anyway, where was I? Having a job. Stephen King had a job before he was Stephen King. In fact, Stephen King had a job before he was Richard Bachman. Let those chains of usary fuel your desire. It’s about as bohemian as you’re going to get.
4. Just because your Great Aunt Imelda once wrote the foreword for the Outer Hebrides Church Newsletter doesn’t make her an authority on what merits a good piece of fiction. Get beta readers, join critique groups, expose yourself to honest criticism before unleashing your stuff on the world. And if you’re an Indie Author you’re definitely going to have to fork out some of your hard earned wedge (refer back to point 3) on an editor prior to hitting publish .
5. Get thyself back to school. Not literally! Walk into your nearest school and you’re likely to end up on the sex offenders list, or, if you live in the States, with a cap in your forty-year-old butt. Thanks to the Internet the world is your library. Learn from the best. Try to understand what makes a book successful. Not only do you have all the best professors at your disposal you have the ability to network with other like-minded folks. The world is your oyster…and everybody elses, for which you can be sure the authors you’re hoping to rub book-spines with on that allegorical literary shelf of life will have done their homework. Don’t be a dunce, get that education you missed out on when you were a little toe-rag at actual school.
Well, there you go. My five little nuggets.
You want fries with that…? Okay, here’s your bonus tip….READ. READ. READ. You wouldn’t hope to pick up a foreign language without immersing yourself in it, but you knew that anyway, didn’t you?