I have been a published writer for twelve years this month. Here are some things I have learnt in that time.

1. Agents know the best restaurants.

2. E-books didn’t exist 12 years ago. They do now. No biggie.

3. Social media is the best thing that has ever happened to writers. (See point 10.)

4. I will never write more than one 90,000 word book a year. Twelve years = ten books.

5. The word ‘philosophical’ can be used as an insult, providing you are an Amazon reviewer.

6. If you write what people want you to write your career will be a lot shorter that if you write what you KNOW you should write.

7. If you can get yourself readers – and get them to like your work – you have yourself a career. It’s not about knowing the right people. It’s about knowing yourself.

8. They say that to be a writer you need a thick skin. This is true. But the bummer is that to write well you need to be a hypersensitive freak.

9.You will never write more than one 90,000 word book a year.You will never write more than one 90,000 word book a year.

10.Social media is the worst thing that has ever happened to writers. (See point 3.)

 11. We like stories because time moves us forward, when what we want to do is move sideways. We want to live every possible life, not just ours. Stories are how we can window shop other possible lives without committing to them. They teach us everything. This was true 12 years ago. It is true now.

12. Bigger advances are just bigger reasons to be dropped next time around. If you get an advance of, say, £60,000, and that book sells 2000 you will get probably get dropped by that publisher, like I did for my third novel. When my agent found me a new publisher I actually said ‘I don’t want too high an advance. At first’.

13. For every new writer arriving on the conveyor belt, another one drops off it. You can’t just be good ONCE you have to stay good. Every book is a debut.

14. Learn to say ‘No’. I have only recently become good at this. I said ‘no’ when asked to do a Dr Who story because I am not a Dr Who fan. If you don’t want to do something, and you do it, it probably won’t be very good.

15. Said it before – ‘foreign rights = free money.’

16. Selling the film rights does not mean a film will be made. Just pray they ask you to write the screenplay, because screenplays are short.

17. People who work in publishing are generally very nice. I think this is because they read a lot of books. (Books make you better.)

18. After twelve years of making a living from your imagination, you are entirely useless for any other kind of employment. This is scary.

19. Being published makes you paranoid. Bookshops stop being bookshops and start being ‘Writers Doing Better Than Me Shops’.

20. Twelve years ago editors were essential. Now they are even more essential.

21. Quasimodo was just a man who sat down to write for twelve years. Do some yoga.

22. Twelve years ago there was no real way for me to get people to read my books. Now there are lots.

23. But even with Twitter, writing remains the loneliest job in the universe. But also the most magical. (‘I’m off to work.’ ‘Oh, where are you commuting to?’ ‘NARNIA!’)

24. Twelve years ago I was teetotal. Now I am not.

(12+12=24. Let’s end.)







  1. Agreed, except on the delicate point of not writing more than one 90K word book a year.

    I wrote the first JP Kinkaid Chronicle, Rock and Roll Never Forgets, in 29 days. It’s 92.5K words. I took three days off to sleep, and wrote the second Chronicle, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, in 32 days.

    No, I am not generally quite that fast. These were the books of my heart, and I was first published in 1988 (Plainsong and Eyes In The Fire, St. Martins Press). But these were apparently waiting, and wanting out, rather desperately.

    So, I’m nodding like a bobblehead on everything else, after 25 years a writer. But not on that one thing.

    Your “Oh gods this voice has been sitting in my soul demanding I do him justice” may vary, and almost certainly will.

  2. “If you don’t want to do something, and you do it, it probably won’t be very good.” Ouch. So true. I hate it that I know that.

  3. Thanks Bruddah,

    Enjoyed it. Now off to Narnia…


    Greg Gutierrez

  4. brilliant list. really enjoyed reading it.

  5. Love your list–and agree with every single aspect of it. I hit my 20th year of being published in 2014. As you can see, I’m already a household name (he he) 9 & 19 are probably my favorite on your list–but I’ve got a check mark beside them all. :) Thanks for sharing.

  6. Laura Taylor says:

    Thank you for recording what we all live.
    Somehow, it makes it all more real.
    :) LT

  7. Matt,
    I especially love numbers 7 and 23. And 18, too. Fun to read; thanks for making the list.

  8. This is a delightful list. I’m at the start of my author career–contracted and not published yet–so it’s nice to see some author thoughts later down the road.

    Thank you for sharing! Again, delightful.

  9. Number eleven resonates with me especially well. I always read for another perspective, an alternate window to gaze through. It’s almost like climbing into another’s shoes to walk that proverbial mile and I am hoping to create that experience for others through my writing. Thanks for the list!

  10. Thanks for the insights. I agree with all but the teetotalling (but I’m new to this, so give me time).

    Now off to walk lest I get Quasimodoed again.

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  12. Loved your list. #11 is great insight … or at least a great articulation of an uncommon insight. I believe it was true when cave men told stories around a fire. (Storytelling: the real oldest profession.)

  13. I love this!

    I am determined to one day write a collection of short stories so I believe you are in such an enviable position having already been published. #8 particularly resonates with me. I have always been a sensitive little flower which makes me worry about how I’d fare in the cutthroat world of writing a book and trying to get it published, but if I were cutthroat myself I wouldn’t be able to write the book I wanted to.

    And I think I might just buy your book.

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