Marketing is now more important than content, sales are more important than authors, immediate profit is more important than sustaining the publishing industry long term. The material has become immaterial. Most people are writing the same sort of stuff, falling into the same old trap, eating each other alive in the bucket of life to get out; like rats.
Here are some tips on how to emerge from the bucket and scurry into the jungle as the last rat breathing; a rat with a dream, a passion, and a story everybody will want to read about your escape…
1. IGNORE ALL ADVICE, ESPECIALLY ALL THIS ADVICE
Everybody is an expert, but the truth is, nobody is. Not even the experts are experts. The expert people behind the scenes in publishing companies are just people who have read books, like you and I. Experience has made them an expert, but too much experience eventually turns people blind. All YOU can do is focus on the content of YOUR book, and be brave about it. Don’t look to other writers to see what they’re doing to learn how to do what you want to do, because the truth is the writers you look to for advice previously looked to other writers to see what they were doing, and those writers who came before the writers you are looking to for advice, looked to learn from other writers who wrote before them to learn about what they should be doing and, finally, the last writer referenced, who was also the first writer to write anything down didn’t have a single fucking clue what he/she was doing. Everybody is copying everybody else believing somebody must know what they are doing. Remember: nobody does.
There are no experts; start with that in mind, and one day you might just become an expert.
2. JOIN TWITTER
Twitter is the place writers go to fuck the shit out of other like-minded brains, so if you are thinking of writing a book, it’s a great place to begin. Others say Twitter is the place writers go to die. Actually, nobody has said that, I’ve just made it up, but there is some truth to it. However if you are already dead, or not alive yet, then you have nothing to lose; and if you can write a book, then you can sure as hell write something interesting in 140 characters.
3. STOP CALLING YOURSELF AN ASPIRING AUTHOR!
You either are or you’re not, you either can or you can’t, you either will do or you won’t. Either we are all aspiring authors, and I include every single person who has ever picked up a pen in the history of man, or none of us are. There are writers on Twitter claiming to be best-selling authors because one of their books about a cowboy falling in love with his own waxed chest has somehow made it to #357,095 in the Amazon charts. These books are a silver bullet shot into the heel of a werewolf formerly known as Achilles. IF the people writing these books are not calling themselves aspiring, then guess what? Nobody is aspiring. MAKE NOTE: Aspiring is dead. The meaning of the word has been changed by Kindle; don’t sell yourself short before you begin. And besides, just because you are starting out, does not make you an aspiring anything; some authors who have forty books behind them might disagree, but I like to think that in ten years time some kid will come along and write something better than I ever did, because he is naturally more gifted than I ever was. In fact, if that doesn’t happen, I’ll be extremely sad. Our duty, your duty as an author, is to push the boundaries of where we can take literature, to try and push where we can take the human imagination; and if you don’t believe that is possible, then why get into writing in the first place? The less time you spend aspiring, the sooner your steps to changing the world begin. Begin a dreamer, and never stop dreaming, and do not confuse dreaming with aspiring.
T H I N K B I G Unless you are sitting at the keyboard almost typing, fingers hovering perpetually above the keys, unless you are sitting with a pen and almost putting it to paper, then you are writing.
So, please, no more aspiring.
4. BACK TALENT WITH ARROGANCE
People might not get how you write, people might tell you that you should write more like them, people might turn their nose up at your words, people might tell you they think your book is confusing, people might say they wish it was more romantic, or had more action in, or was funnier, or was a little bit darker, or had a mermaid robot in called Daisy who got erections at funerals – BUT remember: If you change what you write to meet the expectation of your readers then you immediately negate yourself to the status of being completely irrelevant. You become, essentially, a newspaper. Not full of stories, just full of bollocks and spin put in to appease what your readers expect to read.
I’m not saying arrogance as in the type of arrogance where you immediately go out and buy a gold car with tinted windows and insist your mum drives you around, and you sit in the back seat with a prostitute taking cocaine and talking about yourself whilst your wife is at home telling the children Daddy will be back from the shops any minute. I am not talking about that kind of arrogance. I am talking about having a confidence, about having a swagger in your words. Write the stories YOU want to write. Write the stories that make YOU laugh. Write the stories that YOU want to hear. Write for yourself, fuck everybody else. Don’t live for the crowd, don’t live for the reviews, don’t write your words down for a pat on the back, write them down because if you don’t you get depressed and angry and sad, and know that means you are a writer.
Don’t back down, don’t change your vantage point, stand your ground and argue your point. Draw your line in the sand, because your book is about you, your book is not about anyone else. And to do that, takes arrogance. When the dust has settled, when your line is drawn in the sand, how many books you have sold won’t matter, because you will know you wrote your own way and for yourself. In a world full of zombies and vampires and cowboys rolling around in the hay, by not following conventional methods you give yourself the best chance of standing out from the crowd. The only chance, in fact.
5. WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW IS WRITING WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
Nobody can write what they don’t know. Everything you will ever write is something you know; so start thanking the stars we all know different things. Writer A does not have a vivid imagination, and so might truly know contemporary fiction; the here and now, real life punching you in the gut and pulling your eyeballs over your head, to show them to your friends. You, on the other hand, might just know about dragons, or you might know about talking water that has the power to convince all penguins they are better off living in apartment blocks and working for the council as dustmen. Knowledge is not just what other people tell you it is, knowledge is not just what we think in the moment we think it, knowledge is the image we see in our heads, knowledge is our imagination, knowledge is the pictures we see and the dreams we have. Knowledge is all we know, and all we know that we don’t know yet. So write what you know, but remember you don’t know at this point all you will know…because when you write, you will teach yourself a million things about you that you never knew you knew, that are waiting to be known that you know.
Writing what you know is also writing what you don’t know, because writing what you don’t know doesn’t exist.
So, that’s that sorted.
If God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, I know why the world is so fucked. He left no time for an edit. A great writer, who is an average editor, will write an average book. An average writer, who is a brilliant editor, will write a brilliant book. People prefer brilliant books to average books. It’s that simple. Write your book. Then read it again and edit it. Then edit it again. And again. And again. And again. I know if you’re a bit younger, editing sounds like the boring bit. And also, if you have that arrogance which ultimately all writers have (whether they admit it or not) then you’re going to think you are so great you don’t need to check your work. You are wrong. The edit is the fun part. The edit is the cherry on the cake, the wanky bit of duck sauce next to the prawn Vol-au-vents, the money shot; the bit in dirty dancing when Swayze lifts the girl above his head. Come at writing from the back, implant in your head now that the end of your book is actually the beginning of it, and when you finally come out the end you won’t be too far off.
Now IGNORE ALL OF THIS and go and write YOUR book, YOUR way.
And remember to repeat this mantra when nobody understands what you do…
Want to know if I’m all jabber and no pantaloons? Like the cut of my pilchards and want to read more of how I fuse single words into language? Read the first part of my book The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness – entirely for free. Click on the below Amazon link – which will take you to the book – and start reading. Come back here and burn me with fire if you don’t like my stuff, or go sit on a comfortable chair, and visit the park in my brain.