1. Always have a pencil and paper with you, in every handbag, shopping bag, pocket, briefcase, and of course beside your bed. You never know when that wonderful idea might strike. A Dictaphone might also be useful. Gone are the days when you got funny looks for talking into a machine or even talking to yourself walking down the road. Everybody’s at it now.
2. Travel by public transport as often as you can. If you’ve got a bus pass so much the better, you can stay on it all day for free and save on heating bills at home. You see and meet some great characters for novels.
3. Earwig other people’s conversations in cafes, bars, buses, trains. Hoover up their stories and anecdotes only don’t to it too overtly because you’ll either get arrested or attacked.
4. People watch for body language. It adds colour to your characters, but ditto above.
5. Write for yourself rather than trying to write to suit a publisher, agent, or your readers. You’ll end up with something watered down and weak that nobody loves least of all you.
6. Don’t read reviews, (or rejection letters if you’re struggling to get published) if you do, then learn to take the rough with the smooth and then carry on writing for yourself and for enjoyment, not to please the woman from Woking who claims your novels are utter tripe or the Agent or Publisher who says you will NEVER make a writer.
7. Back up everything, regularly, regularly, regularly.
8. Have a spare computer, laptop or netbook, or all three. If one fails, and you’ve backed up, you can always continue writing.
9. If you get to the stage in your novel where you’re bored with the story, then your reader will almost certainly be bored too. Chuck it out and start again. Or as Chandler once said, bring in a man with a gun.
10. Marry someone rich. It helps. If you can’t then accept that writing is hard work. You don’t get a pension plan, and you don’t get a regular salary cheque. Nobody is forcing you to do this, so don’t moan, enjoy it and if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.
PS And don’t spend too much time drawing up lists otherwise you’ll never get any work done.
Undercurrent, the ninth in the DI Andy Horton series, was published by Severn House in the UK and Commonwealth in January and in the USA in May 2013.
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