The internet is full to the brim with advice for writers. Try Googling ‘advice for writers’ and you’ll get something in the region of 120 million hits. Whoa. That’s a lot of advice. In fact, you’d think that with all that advice floating around we’d all be best-selling novelists by now. At least, I know I would . . . but short of squeezing JK into a jar and selling essence of Rowling, I’m not convinced there is a magic formula.
That’s not to say all advice is bad, of course. I have Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing just here beside me on the desk – the definitive ‘10 rules’ advice – and I have a copy of Stephen King’s excellent book ‘On Writing’. So, yeah, some advice is worth listening to but – and it’s a big but – taking their advice won’t turn you into a Leonard or a King.
So when I am asked the ‘what advice can you give me?’ question, I always find it hard to answer because I feel as if I should be letting people in on THE BIG SECRET.
Only, there isn’t one.
It’s down to a lot of hard work, being confident, luck, and having a thick skin. Which is ironic because we arty-farties usually have thin skins and all kinds of self-doubt.
Ah, the tortured soul.
But that’s for people who are already writing. What about those who are thinking about it? ‘What about the young people’, I hear you cry.
Well, that’s why I’m writing this post. Y’see, at my book launch I was asked to give some advice to a budding young writer and the only thing I could think of was the old ‘read a lot and write a lot’ stand-by, but, you know what? It’s the best advice for someone who’s starting out. All the other stuff just helps make your writing better, but reading and writing is what gets you started. 99% of the authors you’ll ever ask will tell you that they love reading and that their inspiration comes from their favourite story-tellers. That’s what made them write.
Writing because you love it and you have to do it is what matters – not writing because you want to be ‘a writer’.
Oh, and when you write, don’t be boring. Never do that.