Hitting your head against a brick wall

In today’s What Works For Me post I wanted to clarify a point I made in the very first of these articles back in January. I was talking about planning, if you remember, and the process I follow to turn an initial spark of an idea into a finished piece of writing. I was talking specifically about the ground rules I set myself to get my first novel finished back in 1994, and the fourth of those rules was don’t force it: if you’re not in the right mood to write, walk away and come back later.

A few folks took exception to this, and I can see why. I don’t think I explained myself properly, and some clarification is in order.

Banging your head

Writing is hard. Bloody hard. There are days when the words flow, and there are days when they definitely don’t, when you feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall. You know what it’s like when you’re reading and you realise you’ve been looking at the same paragraph for the last fifteen minutes, maybe even the same sentence… I get that when I’m writing too. I occasionally reach a point in the day when I just can’t write another word, when I’ve stopped being productive. It can be a physical thing, not a mental thing.


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What Works For Me

I’ve already said I’m going to be much more visible in 2014, with a lot of original content planned for this site. Today I’d like to introduce a new feature: What Works For Me.

Personally, I think there’s only so much about writing that you can learn from other people. I think it’s something which can’t necessarily be taught. I also happen to think it’s not all about following hard and fast rules: if you can put a series of words and sentences together which have an impact on a reader, then you’re a writer and to hell with grammar and spelling and whatever people say you can or can’t do.

Like many others I speak to, I’m by turn foolishly arrogant and desperately insecure about my writing. I’d love to be a literary giant, but I know I’m not and never will be. I write what I write – I write what I like to read, actually – and, fortunately, enough people seem to like what I do to enable me to scrape a living from it. I try not to lose sight of how important, and how fragile, that is.

I don’t feel at all qualified to be dispensing writing advice but, at the same time, I do get asked a hell of a lot. And that’s what this is all about. I think it makes more sense for me to answer these questions publicly and hopefully discuss my approach with any interested parties, than to keep sending similar emails out to numerous individual folks as and when.

The view from my chair. And yes, the DVD of Autumn is there for a reason. I haven't watched it for a couple of years. I figured it's time for a reappraisal. Blog post coming soon...

The view from my chair. And yes, the DVD of Autumn is there for a reason. I haven’t watched it for a couple of years. I figured it’s time for a reappraisal. Blog post coming soon…

So, if you’ve got a question about writing or publishing you want my take on, fire away. Want to know how I come up with my characters, why I write the way I do, why I don’t care what caused the Hate in Hater or the infection in Autumn, want to know about the advantages and disadvantages of traditional/self-publishing as I see them, how to set up a small press, the things to look out for when you’re arranging an author event, getting to the end of your first draft, how much you should or shouldn’t plan, why I’ll never tell you what my main characters look like…? Whatever you want to know (within reason!) please ask, and I’ll try and tell you what works for me. (Important disclaimer: it won’t necessarily work for you). Either email me direct, use the contact form, or send a message via Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter.

(Polite note: please don’t ask me to read your book/short story etc. at this time, or ask me what I think of your idea… that’s not what this is about. Much as I’d love to give individual feedback, my commitments mean it’s just not possible right now. I’ve had to say no to a lot of people asking for blurbs recently, and it’s likely to stay that way throughout 2014. Sorry).