November 7, 2017 @ 8:21 PM

Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer

We’ve come thus far in the writing journey to the point where the book is now ready to be published, and one has the inexpressible joy of holding the offspring of all these labours in the hands or seeing it smile back at us from the electronic screen.

Of course, there are all sorts of topics that I’ve not touched upon in this series of posts titled ‘Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer’: proof-reading, book design, typefaces, choosing a cover, understanding the publishing contract, the publicity campaign and so on. Yet these are either technical issues outside my focus on the actual business of writing and producing a manuscript – or, in the case of marketing, post-production matters.

I plan to look at some of them in future – more irregular – posts.

Yet the seven steps outlined in this series I began exactly a year ago – see This Writing Life #9, December 2016, on this site  – are followed in one form or another by almost everyone who is a professional writer.

Of course, there are all kinds of intermediate steps: but essentially they are points of detail that will vary from one person to another, depending on individual practice and inclination. I’ll look at some of them too.

That said, I believe the needs to select one's subject carefully, to read widely, to research and understand the topic thoroughly, remain the same. Precisely how you go about them is up to you.

There’s no right or wrong of it, as I said. The only rule is to maintain the discipline of writing and rewriting: to develop those tricks and stratagems that will help you avoid the black hole of ‘writer’s block’ and of not knowing how to go on with the work. Finally, of course, find yourself the best editor you can.

I’ve given a few tips of my own along the way and I hope you find them of use.

Certainly, I find them a lot more reliable than depending on the Muses to breathe life into my imagination and (in these days of the laptop) the metaphoric pen. They are habits and routines and tactical exercises to outmanoeuvre Erato and Melpomene when they and their sisters are in hiding.

But, you know, there is one curious thing. The more we authors practice the disciplines of our craft, striving like a day labourer with words and ideas, trying to ignore the very existence of these nine goddesses of artistic inspiration, the more I find they feel neglected – and jostle to insinuate themselves into the mind to suggest exactly the right word or phrase at the very moment we’re searching the unconscious to find it.

Funny that.

Photo: Author books, courtesy Penguin Random House