Wednesday, November 18, 2015

0 Annoying and Accurate Writing Advice by Simon P. Clark

This week, we welcome Simon P. Clark to the blog. Simon's debut novel, TELL THE STORY TO ITS END was released in the US last month. Today, he's talking about the writing advice we love to ignore, and why it's harder than it looks.

Annoying and Accurate Writing Advice by Simon P. Clark

The more I write and publish, the more I realise how wonderfully subjective this whole thing is. What works for one person can be frustrating and creativity-sucking for another, and even some of the classics - 'show don't tell', 'write what you know' - are worth taking with a heart-busting doss of salt. There's really only one piece of writing advice I've ever heard that's struck me as universally true. It comes from Neil Gaiman, and (in one form or another), it's this: keep writing. It sounds simple, but it's not.

I thought that getting my book published, seeing it in shops, would inspire me to finally throw off the shackles of doubt and lethargy that hamper my writing. I can be a world-class procrastinator, but pre-published Simon had dreams of a magic change being visited upon him the day he became a 'real' author. When, with one book out and another due, I still found days and weeks slipping by and my word count barely changing, I put it down to how busy I was. I had marketing to do, and Twitter, and a new job, and a thousand other things...

Keep writing. Gaiman's advice isn't flippant. I'm realising more and more than it's borne of his many years of hard work and experience. For someone just starting out, who dreams of being published, it is the best thing they can hear: every day, every week, write something. When it's hard and when you think your writing is rubbish, keep going. When you feel alone and that writing is an embarrassing, selfish dream to be hidden from friends and family, keep doing it. Good writing doesn't come because you're working towards one thing - publication, money, five-star reviews - but because you keep doing it, keep getting better, and don't stop even when milestones go flying by.

This isn’t new, I know, but it’s one of those things that’s easy to hear, easy to think you understand, and hard to actually grasp (at least, it was for me). Sometimes I’d like there to be a secret cheat code for being a writer. I’d love to be woken in the night to find myself surrounded by cloaked strangers, to be ushered in secret to a mysterious hall and finally initiated into the Secret Order of Writers. They could then reveal to me the Great Secret of Inspiration, and perhaps, since they’re in a sharing mood, How To Write The Next Harry Potter. For now, though, no cloaked men. No secrets. Just writing, by myself, sometimes with words flowing, sometimes with them dripping sluggishly onto the page.

Now, beyond mere output, the ‘keep writing’ philosophy has one discernible effect: your writing gets better. I’ve tried to think of writing a few different ways over the years: is it like chipping away at a lump of rock to find the sculpture within? Or is it the opposite, taking shapeless clay and building something, piece by piece? I often think of clockwork, with writers working as master craftsmen-mechanics, putting plot, voice, character, pacing, and a thousand other factors together, winding them up, balancing them perfectly, and setting them going (Sidenote: If you haven’t read Philip Pullman’s Clockwork, or All Wound Up, you should). However you see writing, if you see it as a craft, it’s one that can be improved. Writing more, slogging along, getting down to work, makes you better. I can read stories I wrote weeks ago, or years ago, and they can be good, but I know if I wrote them now they would be better. It’s satisfying to know that if writing is a craft, it’s one that has no ceiling. I can always get better by writing, reading, and learning from other artists (and after ‘keep writing,’ my second Golden Rule is that writers should always befriend other writers, immerse themselves in a writing community, and support each other). Sometimes I get frustrated that I’m not good enough yet to write certain stories, or I read something written by a friend and I feel a stab of wonder and envy, but overall I love writing, and I love making things up. I want to keep doing it and so, in a circular way, I make sure I keep doing it.

So, yes. Put pen the paper and get things done. Lots of people start books, few finish them. I normally get hit by a wave of doubt around chapter eight; one day I will write a book that skips chapter eight entirely, as punishment for my previous troubles. Good luck and hard work together can have great results – so, may your writing be vexing and absolutely satisfying.


In this beautiful, haunting debut, a boy is whisked away to the country in the wake of a scandal, and finds a captivating creature in the attic whose attention comes at a sinister price.

"Tell the story to its end," says Eren with a grin.
His yellow eyes are glowing like embers in the night.
"When I reach the end," I say, "what happens? You'll have the whole story."
"Hmm," he says, looking at me and licking his lips with a dry, grey tongue. "What happens then? Why don't we find out?"

People are keeping secrets from Oli. His mum has brought him to stay with his aunt and uncle in the countryside, but nobody will tell him where his father is. Why isn't he with them? Has something happened? Oli has a hundred questions, and only an old, empty house in the middle of an ancient forest for answers. But then he finds a secret of his own: there is a creature that lives in the attic…

Eren is not human.
Eren is hungry for stories.
Eren has been waiting for him.

Sharing his stories with Eren, Oli starts to make sense of what’s happening downstairs with his family. But what if it’s a trap? Soon, Oli must make a choice: learn the truth—or abandon himself to Eren’s world, forever.

Reminiscent of SKELLIG by David Almond and A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness, EREN is richly atmospheric, moving, unsettleing, and told in gorgeous prose. A modern classic in the making.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


Simon P. Clark is a children's author living and working in the UK. Originally from Britain, he has lived and worked in Japan and the USA. His debut novel Eren was published in the UK by Atom, an imprint of Little, Brown in September 2014, and will be published in the US by St Martin's Press in October 2015 as Tell The Story To Its End.

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