We all have a wealth of different experiences, lots of ideas floating around our subconscious, but limited time. There is seldom an ideal time to write so don’t let that be an excuse. Life can get in the way – demanding bosses, children, partners, committees, herbaceous borders, DIY, reality TV shows, bars that stay open late, the list is endless. If you want to progress beyond the diary that ends in February, the travelogue that stops at the airport or chapter three of the great novel, it’s time to take heed of the Write Rules:
1. This might sound obvious but rule number one is start writing and write. Whether you choose a stub of pencil and notepad, or the latest MacBook, just do it.
2. Treat writing like a job and turn up everyday. As Woody Allen says ‘Eighty percent of success is showing up.’
3. Don’t romanticise! There is no “writer’s life style”. Zadie Smith of White Teeth fame puts it this way: ‘Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s life style’. All that matters is what you leave on the page, the quality of what you write. So forget the long lunches in Soho with your agent, hobnobbing with the literati in bohemian bars, and living in castles in Scotland with handsome doctor husbands like J.K. Rowling. These are not essential for becoming a writer; they are occasional by-products of writing.
4. Stay offline when you write on a computer or risk being side-tracked by BBC iPlayer or your emails.
5. Don’t get bogged down in research. If you open an encyclopaedia or, worse, start Googling, you will end up knowing everything there is to know about juggling in Kazakhstan but will have done no writing. Only do research if you have to because your entire plot hinges on the properties of a certain poison; otherwise it is a pernicious form of procrastination. Get the emotions, characters and story down first.
Now all you have to do is pick up that pen….