Charlie Laidlaw is an author and course tutor
There’s no magic formula to writing a book. It takes effort and perseverance.
But like anything else in life, it’s always better to adopt some good habits.
But don’t necessarily adopt the baits of some of some great writers from the past. Probably avoid Friedrich von Schiller’s habit of keeping a rotting apple in his desk. Apparently he was inspired by the smell.
But you might like Truman Capote’s ideal writing position, which was lying flat. Or Stephen King’s habit of starting each writing day by eating cheesecake.
Fortunately or unfortunately, my writing tips are more mundane.
First, get into the habit of carrying a notebook with you. Write down any ideas that occur to you. Or record ideas onto your phone.
Will Self says: “Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”
Second, set aside time to write. It doesn’t matter if it’s first thing in the morning or in the evening. But that becomes your writing time.
Family members or friends should know not to disturb you. Think of these periods of time as a job: it simply has to be done. But don’t worry if you can’t think of anything to write. Not every day brings inspiration, so don’t beat yourself up.
Third, don’t worry about writing from A to Z. If an idea occurs to you for chapter 10 when you’re on chapter 3, write it down. Inspiration is precious and not to be wasted!
My favourite trick is to write the first chapter and the last chapter. That gives me a starting point and finishing line.
Both chapters may change out of all recognition in the editing process, but it gives me a clearer idea of where I’m aiming.
I also know how my characters end up, so I can flesh them out, bit by bit, along the way. It works for me, and it might work for you.
Think like a writer
Third, read, read and read. Books are there to be learned from, so learn from them.
Think why you like a particular chapter or passage. Be forensic about it. In other words, think like a writer, not a reader.
Our tutor is himself a traditionally-published author, and so has the experience to pass on the writer’s armoury.
But in setting out on your writing journey, adopt habits that suit you. Perhaps that of Victor Hugo who wrote naked, wrapped in a blanket. Who are we to judge?
But perhaps not James Joyce, who allegedly wrote Finnegan’s Wake using crayons on bits of cardboard.
Whatever writing journey you’re thinking of embarking on, good habits are important – and maybe contacting us is a good start.