If there’s a book you really want to read,
but it hasn’t been written yet,
then you must write it.
If you havent read these 2 articles in the Guardian you are missing out. They each contain a bunch of writers giving simple pieces of advice for writing. The best part is that a lot of the advice contradicts other advice so you can have a pick and mix of the bits that apply to you so by the end of it you walk away content that you’re on the right track.
A piece I like is from Roddy Doyle that reads: Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven’t written yet.
I hadn’t thought about that in a while until I was posting something on my other blog (www.theistanbullletin.com) and WordPress produced the above gem from Toni Morrison.
I spent a lot of my teenage years wanting to be a successful writer (the first part more important than the second) and so everything I wrote at the time was clearly of its time. When The Matrix came out I tried my hand at writing a book set in a dystopian future that involved lots of virtual reality kung fu. It was shite.
I wrote books about vampires because Buffy was popular. I tried to write a horror novel about a marauding shark the morning after I had seen Jaws on tv. In fact this wasn’t confined to my teenage years. For a lot of my life I have tried to write to trends. I have notebooks stashed somewhere that contain the outline for a Da Vinci Code rip-off, a Harry Potter-esque kids books and if I was still working that way I’d probably be halfway through a terrible 50 Shades of Grey imitator.
The big problem with trying to write this way is that it is intensely boring. Nothing worse than writing boring crap because your motivation is simply financial. There’s no love for the characters or setting or plot. I knew a guy in Korea and he was writing a book. It was some kind of Da Vinci Code-esque caper set in New York and when I asked him if he was a fan of those books, he said, ‘No, I hate them but they sell and once I’ve sold this book then I can start writing serious literature.’
I didn’t really the heart to tell him that probably isn’t how it works. If this guy’s book is succesful chances are a publisher’s not going to say, ‘Brilliant work, kid, here’s a big fat contract so why don’t you write me a sprawling fictional memoir about a young man dealing with the after-effects of World War One written from the point of view of his blind son.’
Actually chances are a publisher will say, ‘Good work, kid, more of the same please.’
Which is fine if you’re writing the genre you love. If I get a contract and spend the rest of my life writing alternate historical fiction books then I’ll be a happy man.
But I digress, the point of this article was that quote and the way that it made me realise that whatever you write you have to make sure its something you yourself would read and love and it would inspire you to want to write yourself. I’ve sat at a computer and tried to write populist crap and its crippling. But then I’ve also sat behind a computer and been writing stuff for myself in a genre I love and laughed my ass off at my own jokes and that feels pretty good.