The Only Writing Advice You Ever Need

Google the term ‘writing tips’ or ‘writing advice’ and you will soon find yourself drowning in things you should and should not do as a writer. Write every day. Write when you feel like it. Self-publish. Don’t self-publish. Know your audience. Write for yourself. Write what you know. Write what you like. Other writers will give you advice, and people who don’t write will give you advice. There are infinite amounts of websites and author services dedicated to giving you advice.

And of course, a lot of this advice is important and valuable. If you are new to writing, of course you should seek advice, ask for help, ask for feedback and be prepared to listen to those who have gone before you. The trouble is so much of the advice is contradictory, because what works for one writer will inevitably not work for another. The trick is forging your own, individual path through all that advice and all those tips.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Take what you need from the writing advice websites and articles, and ignore what you don’t. Because above all else, you have to remember that one size does not fit all. Some writers plan and plot to an excruciating degree before they ever start writing, and that’s okay. Some writers don’t plan or plot a thing, they just start writing and see what happens and that is also okay. Some writers get the concept first and have to create the characters to fit the idea, and some writers get the characters first and have to create the plot to fit them. Both are totally okay. Some writers write every day. Some writers only write when they feel like it. It doesn’t matter what type you are.

The only writing advice I personally think you ever really need is this.

Do what you want.

You can interpret that any way you like. Find your own path. Create your own journey. Do whatever makes you happy. Do whatever the hell you want.

Because above all else writing should make us happy and passionate. We should feel happy and excited and passionate about our writing. It should be, above all else, our happy place. The thing that makes us feel like ourselves. The thing that makes us feel free. And yes, further down the road, you might want to think about audiences, and readers, and markets and blurbs and selling…but before you ever get close to those things, you have to love what you write. You have to love to write. You have to be totally and utterly in love with the act of writing because quite simply, the act of writing is for you. It’s yours.

Its your escape. Your freedom. Your way of interpreting the world. Your way of figuring out how you feel and what you think. Your way of speaking up and being heard. Your way of leaving some kind of imprint on this world. Your way of being you. That’s how writing feels for me. And every time I try to please anyone else, it all gets messed up.

Writing is mine. And I do what I want.

I’ll leave you with this poem, one of many from Charles Bukowski that for me sums up how I feel about writing. Please note, this poem does not sum up how everyone feels about writing! Other writers may not relate to this at all, and that is okay! I just love this poem so much and I feel like Bukowski only ever did exactly what he wanted.

“So you want to be a writer


if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.

if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.

if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.

if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.

if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.

if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.

if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.

unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.”

Indie Author of the Month – Sim Alec Sansford

It’s time to celebrate another indie author and this month I am welcoming Sim Alec Sansford to The Glorious Outsiders. Sim was one of the masterminds behind last years very first Blandford Literary Festival – a fantastic literary event I was honoured to be a part of. Sim has also just released his debut novel, Welcome To Denver Falls. Here, Sim tells us how it feels to finally be a published writer, how music is a massive inspiration and how supportive and welcoming he has found the writing community to be.

  1. Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

My latest release is my debut novel, Welcome to Denver Falls.

The story follows photography student, Harper Andrews, who leaves the comfort of her college campus behind, and ventures to the mysterious town of Denver Falls. Plagued by haunting dreams and unsettling visions, Harper faces a race against time to unlock secrets of the past in order to save her future.

There is a lot of suspense and a little romance, but it is really a tale about friendship and self-belief. That’s the message I hope resonates the most with readers.

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

My first experience with publishing was in November 2019, when I published my first short story, The Storm, online. Growing up, as a young writer, I found it difficult to know where to turn for support. This prevented me from sharing my work. In early 2019, I heard about a local writing group in my town and decided to put my fears and anxieties aside. I took my short story along with me, and the reaction from the other writers was an incredible confidence boost. I was fortunate to make some great friends who ultimately talked me through the process of publishing my work online. It was a mountain to overcome the fear of sharing my work but, it is most definitely the best thing I have ever done.

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

To be completely honest, I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want to write. There was something about books that I found absolutely magical and I knew right away that I wanted to be part of that magic. Whether I was writing, editing or even publishing, I knew someday, somehow, I was going to be part of that world… and I guess now I am, and that’s a really amazing feeling.

4. What is your typical writing day like?

To sum it up in one word: emotional.

I don’t think I have experienced anything else in my life so far that can cause such a whirlwind of emotions. For the most part, my writing days are pretty exciting. I love nothing more than escaping into the mind of my characters and quite often they will end up surprising me by taking things in a different direction than intended. Then there come the nagging thoughts… that sentence doesn’t sit right… But if that character does that it will change this?… Does that sound like something they would say?… How would a reader respond to this?… And so on. On a good day, I can just sit for hours typing away on the keys and before I know it the story has written itself. The trick is to not sweat the small things, just write. The rest comes later in editing.

5. What is your writing process? (how do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc)

Usually, it starts with an image. Just a quick snap shot or a short scene played out in my head. Quite often triggered by music which is something I rely on quite heavily when I need to set the tone for a story or a character. My latest release began as a small scene in a daydream; a young girl in a forest alone, then a man appeared and asked her if she was lost. It was only a small image, but from that I found myself asking a hundred questions… Who is this person? What is she doing in the forest? Is she good, evil, both? Where is the forest? Who is the man? What are his intentions?…

From there I slowly map out a plot in my head and create a playlist of songs that help capture the mood of the story. These songs then help me add new scenes, be it by interpretation of the lyrics or the way they make me feel. I tend to map most things out in my head starting with a beginning, middle and end. For the rest of the story, my way of expanding plot is just to write. I see where the story takes me and slowly over time new ideas and characters are added.

6. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

Definitely the connections I have made with other writers, readers and creatives. I have met some incredibly talented people that I am proud to call my friends. Their knowledge and experience have been invaluable to me and I am able to provide them with new perspectives that perhaps they have never considered. It really is a fantastic community to be part of.

7. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?

Being self-published comes with a lot of challenges, mostly financial. Without the push of a major print, it can be expensive to promote your work, and it is often disheartening if you spend a lot of time and money on an ad campaign that returns few results. The important thing to remember is one new reader is one more than you had before. You have to stay positive and stick at it.

8. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?

Of course, I love all of my characters, but I have to say that Abigail Millar is my favourite. She first appeared in my book, The Willow, where her story serves as a prequel to Welcome to Denver Falls. It was actually only after I had written the book that I realised just how much I had in common with her. While I have not ever made three wishes on a creepy willow tree in the middle of the woods, she really resonates with me. She’s strong and determined, and I love that.

9. Where do your ideas come from?

Most of my ideas come from music. I am a big fan of reimagined songs and love the new (often creepy) twists that the artist put on them. Bands like Until the Ribbon Breaks, and Denmark + Winter do this particularly well.

10. What can we expect from you next?

Currently, I am continuing the story of Denver Falls in the form of a second book, and a weekly series on my blog titled Welcome to Denver Falls: Soul Mate.

Though I do have a few old projects that I would love to bring to life. Particularly a supernatural dystopian romance I have been working on since my teen years. I have an eclectic group of characters in that story, and I’m positive readers will love them as much as I do. However, for now, my focus is on Denver Falls.

11. Tell us three facts about you.

I would be completely lost without music.

I’m a little bit psychic.

I value friendship over everything.

12. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

JUST. DO. IT.

I waited far too long to put my work out there for fear of the reaction… Are my stories any good? My characters compelling? Will people steal my ideas? Do I need to stick to a word count? What if I never get published? The truth is, the only person standing in your way is you.

Pick up the pen. Grab your phone or computer. Whatever you have to do, but just start writing. Don’t worry about the end goal too much, just enjoy the journey.

Writing, like life, is all about growing and changing. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. It is your world and you’re in control.

Thank you so much to Sim for joining us on the blog today as our Indie Author of The Month. If you would like to find out more about Sim and his work his bio and links are below!

Born and raised in the county town of Dorchester, Dorset, Sim began scribbling away stories on scraps of paper since before he can remember. He spent a lot of his childhood on adventures walking the dogs in the woodland surrounding Thomas Hardy’s cottage with his family. Something about the cottage and ‘the man what wrote stuff’ who had lived there sparked a fire inside him, it was from there he began to focus on writing more seriously. 
In 2012, Sim signed up to Open University to study Creative Writing alongside working full time. He isn’t quite sure how he made it out alive, but he graduated with honours and began using the skills he had acquired to edit and redraft old work. 

http://www.simalecsansford.com
Twitter.com/simsansford 
Instagram.com/simeon_alec
Facebook.com/SimAlecSansford

Indie Author of The Month; Jane Davis

Welcome to another Indie Author of The Month post! This time please welcome award-winning author Jane Davis to the blog. I have followed Jane for a while on social media and have read a number of her novels. I enjoyed each one tremendously. Jane has just released a brand new novel, At The Stroke of Nine O’clock, and is here today to tell us all about it, as well as her publishing journey so far, her writing process and advice to aspiring writers. Enjoy!

1.Tell us about your latest release. What is it about and who is it aimed at?

My latest release is called At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock. I haven’t perfected my elevator pitch on this yet. The short answer to the question ‘What is it about?’ is that it’s a timeless story of sex, class and murder.

My inspiration for the book was the discovery that the subjects of three biographies I read back to back each had a connection with Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Great Britain. My fascination with Ruth Ellis stems from my teens, when I first saw the same photographs that were splashed across the front pages that spewed from the presses when production resumed in 1955 after a month-long newspaper strike. With a four-million-pound loss to recoup, the papers needed something sensational to fight back with, and Ruth’s story was newspaper gold. ‘Platinum blonde ex-model shoots racing-boy lover.’ By the end of the day, in every pub and Lyon’s Corner House, around every dinner table, on front doorsteps and over garden fences, talk was of one subject and one subject only.

The reason for my initial fascination with Ruth Ellis is almost as complicated as she herself was. It’s difficult to accuse those who paid £30 for a seat in the Old Bailey’s public gallery of treating personal tragedy as entertainment, without acknowledging something of the same motivation. At the same time there was something truly shocking about the fact that the last hanging in Great Britain took place as recently as 1965. This was the world I inherited.

For me, the tragedy of the Ruth Ellis story is that, because she admitted that she intended to kill David Blakely, the trial lawyers had little interest in why she did it, the very question that has had me gripped. To a writer, cause and effect is everything.

I didn’t want to put myself in Ruth’s head, so instead I explored some of the same issues she faced through my characters, three very different women, who all have a very personal reason to say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ when they learn of Ruth’s fate.

As for who it’s aimed at, one of my readers wrote, ‘Jane Davis straddles the contemporary and historical genres with grace and aplomb, while combining the very best of literary and women’s fiction.’ So my hope is that it will have fairly broad appeal.

2. Tell us about your publishing journey so far.

My publishing journey began before the advent of self-publishing, when the Done Thing for a writer was to secure the services of a literary agent. Which I did. But that agent was unable to place my first novel. (There was an offer and a contract but before I could sign the contract the publisher who had offered the terms was bought up by another publisher, so that was the end of that). There, my journey diverted. Unbeknown to my agent, I entered my second novel in a competition, the aim of which was to find the next Joanne Harris. And I won! Half Truths and White Lies was the result.

Unfortunately (as you may have guessed), I didn’t turn out to be the next Joanne Harris. Transworld published my book under their women’s fiction imprint. I didn’t challenge their decision because I was very green and had no idea of the implications of this. When I submitted my follow-up novel to them, they turned it down because it wasn’t women’s fiction.

There followed several years of trying to find homes for my next three novels. During this time people began to speak about self-publishing in hushed tones. I paid good money for the advice that no self-respecting author would even consider it. But by 2012, I was on the verge of giving up. Before I jacked it all in, I decided that I should see for myself. I booked a ticket for a self-publishing conference. The rest is history.

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t put pen to paper until my mid-thirties. I was quite an artistic child, but I left school at the age of 16 without any idea what I wanted to do. (Being an artist didn’t seem like a very practical plan.) In those days what you did was to go to the Job Centre and say, ‘I’d like a job please,’ and they would look through their index cards to see what was available. I was sent to work in an insurance company. I enjoyed being treated like an adult and earning my own money, so I stayed put. When the time came to apply for another job, my experience was in insurance and so those were the jobs I applied for. I chased promotion after promotion but I was also busy doing all of things that you do as a young adult (buying a flat, DIY, doomed relationships). But I found that I craved a creative outlet. I had been mulling an idea around in my head for a while and, on a two bottles of wine evening, I said out loud that I was thinking of writing a book. After that, there really is no option but to do it.

4. What is your writing process? (How do you plot a book, come up with characters, find motivation etc?)

Do you know, a couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by an eleven-year-old for a schools project and she asked me that very same question! I had to admit that I don’t have a process. Instead every book seems to require its own approach. Sometimes I start writing with only the germ of an idea. (When writing My Counterfeit Self, for example, I simply decided that I was going to write about the life of a poet, and the only reason I did that was because readers who reviewed my previous book said that my prose was poetic.) Generally, I work on the characters, put myself inside their heads and allow them to take over. Some projects seem to demand extensive research, but I tend to be aware when the research is just a form of a procrastination and it’s time to face the blank page. Several interviewers have put it to me that in XYZ novel, I was trying to get a certain message across. The truth is that, whatever my chosen subject matter, I use the process of writing to explore my feelings on the subject. That doesn’t mean that the views expressed in the book are necessarily my own. Perhaps I need: The view expressed on this novel are the views of the characters and not the author.

5. What has been the most positive thing about your publishing journey so far?

I’m extremely proud of the two awards I’ve won, which acknowledge not only the quality of writing, but self-publishing standards. (Writing Magazine’s Self-Publishing Book of the Year Award 2016 and the Selfies (best independently published work of fiction) Award 2019.) I think it’s so important that professionalism in self-published is honoured, and to recognise that self-publishing doesn’t mean DIY. A team of thirty-five people are behind my books, both professionals and unpaid beta readers who provide invaluable feedback about early drafts.

6. What has been the most negative thing about your publishing journey so far?

I must admit that it was probably having A Funeral for an Owl rejected by Transworld. But it’s a novel I’m incredibly fond of, and self-publishing enabled me to put it out there.

7. Who is your favourite character from your own books and why?

That’s like asking me to choose a favourite child! If forced, I’d have to say Lucy Forrester, my main character from My Counterfeit Self. She’s a cross between Edith Sitwell and Vivienne Westwood. I enjoyed watching her grow from childhood polio victim, from poet to political activist and, in later life, into a reluctant style icon. I was very proud when readers said that they’d Googled her and were surprised to learn that she wasn’t a real person.

8. Where do your ideas come from?

A variety of places. On two occasions now, I’ve been inspired by an episode of the arts series, Imagine. My 2018 novel Smash all the Windows came from a place of outrage. (It was my reaction to a news report.) But I also have a love of photography, and I’m regularly inspired by photographs.

9. What can we expect from you next?

I have an idea for a novel, but the other project that I’ve had on the go for the past eighteen months is the diary I kept about caring for my father who had dementia. (He passed away in April.) I am not quite sure what I should do with it yet, except that I would like to do something.

One in fifteen adults over the age of 65 suffers from some form of dementia. That’s 793,333 people. By the time you reach the age of 80, the odds increase to one in six (approximately 533,333 people). And yet talking about dementia seems to be taboo.

I have so many incredible anecdotes that might provide reassurance to those whose relatives have a diagnosis, but another approach would be to produce a more serious work of non-fiction about how little help is available for the army of unpaid carers who are looking after family members. My 81-year-old mother was my father’s full-time carer (and believe me, it was a 24-four-hour-a-day job), and was not always in good health herself. In October 2018 she was hospitalised with a very serious infection that came about because she had neglected her own healthcare needs. She should have been entitled to a carer herself for six weeks. This was never forthcoming. Instead, she was straight back into the role of caring for my father.

Here is a short extract:

14th October 2018, middle of the night. I am staying at the house because Mum has just come out of hospital. Dad up and dressed.

12.30am

Dad cutting out newspaper clippings, looks very tired.

Jane: Hello, Dad. I could have sworn I put you to bed two hours ago.

Dad: Where did you come from?

Jane: I was asleep in the bedroom at the back.

Dad: Yes, but who are you?

Jane: I’m Jane. Your daughter.

Dad: Jane? (Incredulous)

Jane: Come on, let me show you. (I take Dad to the hall and point to my photograph.)

Dad: That’s you?

Jane: That’s me. 26 years ago.

Dad: Are you sure? (Looks closely at me.) But your hair is all funny. (Tries to flatten it down.)

Jane: I expect I need to brush it.

Dad: He’s one of mine (points to Bernard). Birmingham.

Jane: To be fair, I think we’re all yours. Bernard, Anne…

Dad: Oh, Anne is very good.

Jane: Jane, Louise…

Dad: Yes, Louise. She came.

Jane: …and Daniel.

Dad: Scotland.

Jane: That’s right. Daniel in Edinburgh.

Dad: (Happy now) Shall we have a nice cup of coffee and some of the little round things? (He means biscuits.)

Jane: I think we should both go to bed. It’s the middle of the night.

Dad: I know. It’s ridiculous!

Jane: It’s very dark outside.

Dad: Because of the rain. (For the last two days, I have been telling Dad it is dark in the daytime because it has been raining. Now I regret it.)

Jane: How about it? Shall we go upstairs to bed?

Dad: Shhhh. If you have some blankets, you can still be very cosy. Come on, let me show you. (Shows me his recliner in the sitting room.) You sleep here.

Jane: How about you sit down, Dad, and I’ll do the blankets for you?

Dad: But when is the coffee?

Jane: You sit down and I’ll tuck you in and make you a nice coffee.

Dad: Oh, (nonchalant), I suppose so.

Dad is fast asleep by the time I bring his coffee.

2.30 a.m. Dad is ‘restoring’ one of his father’s self-portraits with Blu-tack.

Jane: Hello, I see you’re up again.

Dad: We have to put it in the holes. One, two three, four, five, six, seven. And we press it in and then we leave it for a few days.

Jane: Perhaps we could do that in the morning. It’s the middle the night.

Dad: Yes! (Very happy)

Jane: I really think you should try and have some sleep, otherwise you’ll be very tired tomorrow.

Dad: (Holds my head and gives me a Latin blessing). You worry too much.

Jane: I probably do.

Dad: Where is the person who makes the porridge?

Jane: Mum? I hope she’s fast asleep.

Mum: (Standing on staircase.) No, she isn’t!

Now we are all up in the kitchen and it is the middle of the night. I decide that one of us really has to go to bed so that Dad does not think we should all be up. Mum insists it is me.

Next day, Dad up bright and breezy at 6.00am. Meanwhile Mum and I are exhausted.

10. Tell us three fun facts about you

I was kicked out of the brownies for refusing to play the game of ladders on health and safety grounds. (I was right. Someone broke their ankle the following week.) I got my revenge by becoming a Cub Scout leader.

I once played James Galway’s golden flute.

My mother plays recorder on the Finger of Fudge advert. (My apologies to persons of a certain age for the earworm.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC9BBLSZZdQ

11. What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?

I learned so much from the process of writing my first novel, my advice is just do it!

A huge thanks to Jane for coming on the blog to talk about her new release. If you are keen to find out more, you can find her bio below followed by her book and social media links!

Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of nine thought-provoking novels.

Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing.Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards. Smash all the Windows was the inaugural winner of the Selfies (best independently-published work of fiction) award 2019.

Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.

Links and Social Media;

Books2Read Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/brWppZ Amazon Link https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08B1PCTC1 Smashwords link https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1027278 Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/at-the-stroke-of-nine-o-clock Apple https://books.apple.com/gb/book/at-the-stroke-of-nine-oclock/id1518038645 Goodreads link https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53955188-at-the-stroke-of-nine-o-clockMy social media links are: Website: https://jane-davis.co.uk Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage Twitter: https://twitter.com/janedavisauthor Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/

Finding The Time and The Energy to Write, and Keep Writing!