At times, some of my personality traits can find their way into the characters I create. These traits can often become exaggerated, skewed even. Tom Stacey is an example of this, the central character in my novel ‘A Model Partner’. With Tom, my natural curiosity of people has transformed into his obsessive and unusual search for the ideal partner. And my self-doubt has transformed into his deep-rooted insecurities. But before anyone gets too excited, I’d just like to point out that unlike Tom, I have never borrowed a neighbour’s bed-sit without asking and I do not hear an imaginary buzzing whenever I feel I am losing control of a situation. Some of Tom’s qualities are completely his own, like his love of research and his fixation on ordered steps. So in honour of Tom’s qualities and bearing in mind his love of lists, here are a number of tips which might be of some use to budding writers out there –
1. The blank page is not a writer’s greatest enemy
I can think of much greater enemies than a blank page for a writer, a child bouncing a football against the exterior wall of your office, coffee poisoning, working on a chair which is insultingly lacking in lumber support.
Try to think of a blank page as a challenge. Or if you are not competitively driven, think of it as an opportunity.
2. There is more than one way to write a book.
Good writing is good writing, regardless of how it came about. So plot ahead. Or don’t plot. Write it while lying on your back. Wear a crash helmet when working on the dialogue. It’s your book. Create it whatever way you like and learn what works best for you. Not all writers create in the same way.
3. Don’t be afraid to break the rules
But importantly, ensure you understand what the rules are first. There are only so many times you can be ‘accidentally brilliant’ before someone begins to get suspicious.
4. Do not endorse locution that you don’t perfectly tolerate
…sorry, what I meant to say was…
Do not use words you don’t fully understand
5. You do NOT need to own a cat to be a writer. This is a fact.
6. Try to read your work back aloud and listen to the rhythm.
Aim for intricate musical arrangement, not steady dripping tap.
7. Editing is key to your work.
It is time-consuming and hard work but I have a little rhyme that might help.
Editing might take a lot of time,
And it means reading your work over and over again,
But it will make a lot of…
Actually, there is no rhyme that will help. Just edit your work thoroughly.
8. Read the best writers in your field
9. Write as much as you can, whenever and wherever
I can’t speak for all other writers but if I go a couple of days without writing I feel the loss, incomplete in some ways, an artist without a muse, a driver without a car, a chicken nugget without the cardboard filling…
10. Never end a list with an odd number of points