Writing: 7 things I've learned so far.

I've been writing for about eighteen months now. I've finished one book, am in he midst of finishing another in the same series, and have got about half way through a completely different book.

This is what I learned so far.


1. Never stop learning

I started to write about 20 years ago. I sat at my desk and bashed out a novel in three months. It was a mess. Oh , sure it had words and they were in the right order. There was even a structure to  it. But I hadn't learnt the art of writing. Nor the science. It's a skill just like plumbing, carpentry or advertising. I needed to learn about character arcs and flow, settings and punctuation, narrative voice and point of view. And the funny thing was, the more I learnt, the more I needed to learn. It's still true today. I'll never stop learning how to write. 



2. Writing is a process.

You have to sit down in front of a desk. Or in coffee shop. Or on a tropical island. Wherever you feel comfortable. You have to sit there and get out 90,000 words to tell a story. There has to be a beginning, a middle and an end. But they don't have to be in that order. There has to be characters. But they don't have to be human. There has to be a setting. But it doesn't have to exist. At the end of the process, you have a book It might not be any good. Nobody might read it. But you have a book. Well done. Pat yourself on the back and read number three.

3. Writing is re-writing

Nobody, not even Stephen King, gets it right first time. Re-writing and editing wis where a book comes alive. The themes get emphasised and clarified. The words get clearer or more beautiful. The commas, full stops, hyphens and speech marks all get put in the right place. The book begins to make sense. Re-write and re-write again. Eventually you will stop. In the year 2203.

4. Write every day.

Even if it's a blog. Or a letter to the milkman. Or a not to yourself. But write. and then write some more. The only way you get better at writing is by writing some more. It's like riding a bike. Only more fun.

5. Know your genre.

Go to a bookshop. It's one of those lovely places where your competition is lined up on shelves. There are lots of shelves and even more competition. But the one thing a bookshop does is make it easy for readers to find the books they like. The classify them. And unless you are writing the world's best book, write in a genre that a publisher, a bookshop and a reader will understand. If you don't, you will make it very hard to find somebody to publish your work. I know this from experience. I've still got the manuscript on my desk. Sitting there, staring at me. reminding me every day to write in a genre.

6. Find a method of writing that works for you.

I'm a pantser. That means I fly by the seat of my pants. Usually, I have a beginning, a middle and en end, but I don't know where I'm going when I sit down to write every day. It means I have to spend a lot of time re-writing to make it all make sense. But I don't mind. Stephen King is the same. So is Ian McEwen. The opposite is a planner. Like John Grisham. Jo Nesbo. Jeffery Deaver. These writers don't lift a finger to the keyboards until they know exactly where they are going with the book. Find your method. It could be a mixture of the two, Who cares. As long as it works for you.

7. Have fun.

Each day, I sit at my keyboard and go somewhere new.  I learn something about the process of writing. I learn about myself as a person. I think I've got better at writing. I've certainly got quicker. And now I recognise when I've written something that's crap and I've learnt how to fix it. But the most important thing I've learnt is that, if I'm having fun when I write, it shows on the page. It's simply more enjoyable for the reader.

I hope these are helpful. Next time, I'll talk about the more specific stuff and technical stuff, I've learnt as a writer.