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.)
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.)