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A Gentle Writing Tip

I love my readers for many reasons (not least that they indulge my bizarre imagination), but one of my favourites is the questions they ask.

I receive a range - lots about my literary friends (or characters, if you want to be ruthless), and the plots and settings of the tvdetective books, but also about many other areas of writing.

I haven't answered a question in a while, so I thought now would be a good time, particularly as it's a musing well worth sharing with all aspiring authors out there.

(And I know, from the feedback I get, that there are many thousands.)

The question was this - how can you find the strength / commitment / energy / creativity to write for hours each day, and day in day out?

The simple answer is that I don't believe you can - or at least, not to a standard good enough to be worthwhile.

I have a strategy, developed over the years, which helps me enormously and which I'd thoroughly recommend.

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The Golden Ticket

Apologies to the great Roald Dahl for a little shameless borrowing from his immense imagination, but I thought it was a fine title for this musing.

I'm not talking a chocolate factory here, but the ticket that being an author brings you to just about anywhere, anyone and anything in this wonderful world.

A small example from this week - I was invited to talk about the tvdetective books to the East Devon Luncheon Club in Sidmouth.

Sidmouth lunch.jpg

The setting was beautiful, the splendour of the Victoria Hotel, and the audience very kind.

The age range was towards the retired - one lady said I represented "da yoof" (quite a compliment!), but that didn't mean any less of a sparky time. Witness this one exchange -

Guest - Do you get nervous, giving talks?

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The Fear of Nothing

I had to face one of a writer's greatest fears this week.

It's a strange one, because it's a fear of nothing - or, perhaps, nothingness might be a better way of putting it.

I'd done all the planning and preparation for a new book. I'd spent months working on the characters, the plot, the settings, all the usual elements. And so came the time to write the first line...

... and I couldn't do it. I hesitated, pulled up, stopped with fear.

Oh, the blank page - how can it be so foreboding?

I had to take myself for a walk around the river, get some air, and give myself a good talking to.

"Come on idiot... you've done all the work... you're ready to start... it's a decent idea... now get on with it..."

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Romance and Reality

So many people say to me; I'd love to be a writer. It's such a wonderful and romantic way of life - isn't it?

Well... yes and no.

Let me make clear at the start that I delight in writing. It's a joy and also a privilege, and I'm very grateful to be a part of it.

When I began, I never expected to get published, let alone repeatedly. And all that I've learnt, the places I've been, the people I've met... it's been an exhilarating experience.

On the subject of which, let me share a quick photo, as I like to do. I was invited to open the Exeter Real Ales Festival over the weekend, and had a splendid time (not least because of the excellent beers on offer.)

Simon Exeter beer fest.jpg

(Important note for aspiring writers - it's still almost obligatory for authors to give speeches with drink in hand, even in these modern politically correct days.)

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The Notebook Hierarchy

One of the wonders of writing is how much you learn about yourself, and I've made a new discovery - although I'm now wondering what it says about my character (which perhaps isn't wise.)

I realised yesterday, as I searched for an almost lost idea amongst my ramshackle archives, that I have a hierarchy of notebooks.

Allow me to introduce you to Level One (and this is a tad embarrassing) -

hog notes.jpg

This is the notebook I take out when I fear there's a danger of losing it - like to a pub night, or to see a band, when it's all hubbub around. It's more of a quick scribble pad.

I can't bear the thought of losing an idea, so I have to take something to write on. But you do get the odd strange look when you whip out a yellow hedgehog notebook in the midst of a busy pub and begin scribbling.

(As to the hogs thing, it goes like this; one nested outside my room when I was at college and I've loved them ever since. There's a mention of my little spiky friends somewhere in each of the tvdetective books.)

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