On April 14th 2010 my first novel, Truths, will be released by Bold Strokes Books. Aside from being possibly the single most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me, this has also prompted some redefining of myself. From being someone simply struggling through life with a few ambitions, I am now a WRITER. No, I’m not used to being able to describe myself that way yet, but it certainly sounds very nice.
What I’ve found quite disconcerting is that I seem to have become, overnight, an authority on writing and the publication process. Suddenly people are telling me that they’re writing books – or have always wanted to – and waiting for my words of wisdom. But are there rules for how to reach that sought after goal of being a published writer? Did I just get lucky?
At the weekend, I found this quotation:
‘There are just three rules for writing but nobody knows what they are.’ Somerset Maugham
To me, Somerset Maugham sums it up perfectly. Everyone can tell you three rules for writing. My own?
1. Believe in what you are writing. Most of the editing I had to do of my first novel was a result of being too timid while I was writing it. Have faith in your own abilities and you will be a better writer. Don’t let other people put you off.
2. Write what you know. I don’t mean that writers should limit their works to stories derived from their life experience, but that if you are venturing beyond things you have some personal knowledge of, then research is key. It will not only make the book more convincing, it will also give you confidence as a writer.
3. Love your characters. They will be your constant companions for a considerable period of time. You have to know things about them that you never mention in your book. My characters guide my plot with their personalities and I always feel sad when I have to say goodbye to them.
So, those are my three rules. But over and above anything any writer might tell you, remember what Somerset Maugham said. Nobody knows the rules for good writing and don’t let anyone, even a bestselling author if you should encounter one, tell you what they are. Writing is a creative process. Make your own rules.