Thursday, 19 February 2015

Career tips for writers

Person Holding Black and Orange Typewriter
Image courtesy of Pexels
If you want to make it as a writer, you need to forget about getting rich
quick, being the new J K Rowling (or E L James, put the fluffy handcuffs
away), winning the Man Booker or being on Desert Island Discs. The
surest way to succeed is to set achievable goals, work towards them every 
day and start right now. 

Here are my top ten smart moves for writers who want to get published
and stay published: 

1.   Write as well as you can  - and aim to get better. Develop your  'practice' as a writer and write at least 500 words a day. 

2.   Be proactive and network, both online and face to face.

3.   Keep up to date with new developments in literary agencies  and publishing houses. Get free emails from The Bookseller

4.   Set up your own blog and author page on Facebook, and set  up Twitter  and Tumblr accounts.

5.   Go to conferences and festivals and find out what is going  on Example: The Winchester Writers' Festival is particularly  useful for new writers.

6.   Read your work out at open mic events and at festivals.

7.   Enter short story completions, first novel awards etc. Submit   work to the literary press, both online and in paper format.

8.   Find a day job that is compatible with writing, not too horrible and which you can use as a source of material.

9.   Learn to manage your time and energy effectively.

10. Enjoy your writing  – you are an artist!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dealing with rejection

I have been rejected many, many times in my career as a writer - it's all part of the territory. (I know that's a cliche, but that is sort of my point.) And there never comes a stage when you are immune to it. Two years ago I couldn't even get agents to read my third novel, even though my first two novels had been published by Penguin Books. 

I can't say it gets easier, but the longer I go on, the more confidence I have in the fact that my writing is worth something, and that I know what I am doing. Each rejection is a learning experience, and as you go on you take from each knock back what you need. My very first agent told me my very first book draft - 100 pages of a novel - wasn't up to scratch. (It wasn't, and my next effort, though also unfinished, was a considerable improvement.) 
Photo courtesy of Steve Baker
Creative Comms 

Rejections I have had since have taught me about publishing. It's a business, and a pretty challenging one at that. Publishers want books they can sell. They aren't sure how to get hold of these. The books that sold well last year must have got something right, so they would like you to write a book similar to one of those. (But not too similar - a touch of originality is allowed.) They are in the business of trying to second guess what cannot be second guessed, the whims and fads of readers. If I was a publisher, I would probably ask for the same thing. 

I used to value my writing only on the basis of what other people thought of it. I didn't really know what I thought of it myself, and was fuelled by desperate hysteria. But the harder you work, the more you assert your own value, your own set of judgements. Some agents and professionals will give you advice that is gold dust. Some will give you advice that is worthless. Be prepared to rewrite and revise work that needs it. Be prepared to defend the artistic integrity of work that doesn't.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Boyhood - the imaginary truth

I'm interested in the way that storytelling in film relates to storytelling in fiction - and was blown away by the of intensity of  Boyhood. It exploits the cinematic medium brilliantly - film can't get inside people's heads as fiction can, but it can do things that fiction can't. Showing the passing of time over more than a decade was utterly compelling.  

All fiction writers and fiction film makers are playing a game with truth, imagination and the willingness of readers or audiences to suspend their disbelief.  Here's my article in The Conversation about why Boyhood has more truth in it than 'true stories' like American Sniper and The Imitation Game. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Getting on with it

There is an awful lot of advice out there about creative writing. Some useful, some not so useful. Much of it is being offered by people who have never been published - whether that is a bad thing I don't know. Some very good writers have been passed over by Publishing Land and some very poor ones given book deals, loads of publicity and big prizes. (No, I'm  not going to say who I mean here, but if you read widely you will have a few suggestions of your own.)

I've been published, I've been Not Published, I've been in various states of discouragement and general lack of self belief in the 25 years or so since I first got a short story in a magazine. (In fact, it's 28 years - I published a short story called 'Santa at the Beach' in a 'style magazine' called Fairly Serious Monthly in 1987.) I am an Official Veteran. 

Anyway. Some advice from the coal face as I resume work on my fourth novel: Get on with it. However slow the progress, some progress is numberless percentage points more productive than no progress at all. Cue for picture of slow but gradual progress, with nice view.

Image courtesy of  Phil Richard,
Creative Commons 

Not very erudite, and I'm sure Stephen King, Graham Greene,Virginia Woolf, Gertude Stein and various others have put it far more elegantly, but that is my advice. To you, and to myself. (Bearing in mind I haven't even blogged for two months exactly! What the hell is going on? With that in mind I will be posting every week until I go to a writing retreat - of which More Later...)