How To Be A Writer
- Read. Read everything. Good books for style, bad books so you know what mistakes to avoid. My major influences are: Martin Amis, Bret Easton Ellis, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Fay Weldon, Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Penelope Lively, Antonia Fraser, Selina Hastings, Jilly Cooper, Virginia Woolf, Stephen King, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Jonathan Franzen, Philip Roth and too many others to mention. The more you read, the better your vocabulary will be and consequently the better your writing will be.
- Write every day. I blog every day and this gives me the confidence to know that I can write whenever I sit down to do it. Have a pen and paper next to your bed and write down your dreams when you wake up. Write before you listen to the news or read anything by anyone else. If you’re stuck: do some automatic writing. Set a timer for ten minutes and just write whatever comes into your head. Don’t let your hand leave the paper. You’ll be surprised at what you produce.
- Walk. I thought of this morning’s poem on the walk back from the gym. Dickens and Virginia Woolf used to take long walks. Walking makes the brain produce Inspiration.
- Inspiration can strike at any time. Always keep a pen and notebook with you. I’ve written on trains, buses, waiting for a play or film to begin, waiting at stations or bus stops.
- If Inspiration fails, try a change of scene. Travel and experiencing new things can act as a catalyst for new ideas.
- Write in cafes, restaurants, on the beach or in the park.
- Impose a deadline by promising to send a friend two thousand words or so. This will make you produce something.
- Plan, but know that your story will shape itself, often spiralling into unexpected scenarios. Your characters will take on their own lives and surprise you.
- Have a calm, quiet, clear space in which to write.
- When Inspiration is absent, edit. Dostoyevsky wrote eight drafts of The Idiot. It never hurts to go through your writing with a red pen, taking out info dumps and extraneous adverbs.
- Experiment with different styles of writing. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to write a radio play or a film script. Give it a go. I wrote fiction for years, then a Memoir and now I mainly write poetry. It’s all worth writing.
- Get angry about something and then write about it. Good writing often comes from a sense of injustice, railing against the unfairness of the world.
- On public transport, write down conversations that you hear. This will improve your dialogue no end.
- Watch television. Some of the best writing these days is for television and it will help you with structure, plotting, suspense and endings.
*2018. By Fay Weldon. Book of advice for the rejected writer.