So, you want to be a professional writer.

When I first started out on what is laughingly called my writing career, I imagined that at some point, I would end up sitting somewhere warm doing pretty much sod all whilst my bank account was being drip fed a steady stream of royalty payments. This money would then be spent fuelling my passions for motorcycles, stock car racing and Adidas Gazelles with the remainder being wasted on expensive holidays and flash restaurants. Sadly, it has not turned out like that.

Instead, like most writers battling against the combined curses of mid-list anonymity and the explosion of electronic publishing, I find myself working long hours developing new projects whilst waiting for decisions from people who are either barely qualified to make them or are simply too terrified to. These days, saying ‘no’ is both easier and safer than saying ‘yes’ or even ‘maybe’.

Given that I am keen to eat once in a while (well, this belly doesn’t maintain itself!) what this means in real terms is that since time is one of only two tools I have for the generation of income (the other being what could jokingly be called ‘talent’) it has become an extremely valuable commodity. One which once consumed, is irreplaceable.

I mention this not in an effort to elicit any kind of sympathy but for a very specific reason. For I recently read an amazing article by a best-selling American writer called Leslie Banks in which she talked about the demands placed on a writer’s time and in particular, the value placed on that time by other people. And what she says is correct. Abso-fucking-lutely correct.

You see like most writers, I receive a steady stream of unsolicited mails from people asking for either help or advice. In the main I’ve always welcomed these and been happy to help if I can. Recently however, these mails have turned from simple questions about specific aspects of either writing or publishing into requests to critique whole manuscripts, help them find an agent and/or publisher or even come on board to help develop a project from scratch. This would be fine were there ever the offer of any money to carry out this work but this is rarely, if ever the case. Remember that, because I will return to it in a moment.

I’d also ask you to consider another point raised by the fabulous Ms Banks. For like her I rarely read anything else whilst I’m writing because I have learned from experience that if I do, I tend to adopt that authors style in my own work. But equally, whatever I’m reading sinks into my brain and on one occasion, something actually fell out of my subconscious and made it onto a page I’d written. Thankfully, I caught it whilst editing but supposing I hadn’t noticed it and it had made it into print only to be picked up by some eagle eyed reader who went on to point it out to the offended author. Can you imagine?

Indeed, with more and more people paranoid about the theft of ideas, it’s only a matter of time before a writer who only tried to help someone out is dragged into court and accused of ripping off a plot line.

Now, put all this together and you might start to understand why more and more writers are not simply reluctant to respond to requests for help but are becoming increasingly angry about them. Because when that mail drops in my inbox what it’s actually asking is “Dear Mr Brimson, can I take advantage of your 17 years worth of experience and a shed load of your time and at the same time, would you be happy to run the risk of getting sued to shit and back? Oh, and can you do it all for free?”

Not exactly the most attractive proposition and in all honesty, it’s actually quite insulting. After all, would you go to any other experienced professional and ask for their time free of charge? What do you think a lawyer would say to that? Or a therapist? What would you say if I came to you at your place of work? I rest my case.

So the bottom line is this; if you want to be a writer, then write. And if you want to be a published author or a credited screenwriter, then as you write, learn. Learn about the delights of plotting, the fineries of character arcs, the stress of editing, the nightmare of pitching, the complexities of contracts, the (occasional) thrill of PR, the gut-wrenching pain of rejection and the never-ending irritation of waiting.

But if you want to circumnavigate any of that then be prepared to put your hand in your pocket. It might cost you in the short term but it will almost certainly save you an awful lot of time.

And as Leslie Banks says only too well, time is money. My money.

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My latest novel, Wings of a Sparrow is now available in both eBook and paperback format.

My next film production, We Still Kill The Old Way, will be released in December 2014.

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The Great Game. Or not.

football, writing, sex, oral, sport, soccer, film, screenwriting, analI am one of that lucky breed of individuals who has ended up doing a job, if you can call it that, which just happens to revolve around one of their  passions. As a result of this good fortune, what I do occasionally rules my life 24/7 to the point that if I’m not working by necessity, I’m doing by choice.

Thankfully, my son has also become infected with this passion and no doubt, as the years pass by, the two of us will continue to enjoy our shared obsession not just because we’re father and son, but because…well, because we’re blokes. And as we grow older, we’ll talk about the good old days and how things were much better back … er, now, and moan about how it all went wrong. Which of course, it surely will. Because the thing of which I speak is of course, the glorious, but all too often disappointing game that is football. And if you follow football, as anyone who watched the pathetic efforts of our nations supposedly finest players in Brazil will be acutely aware, the chances are that you’re going to spend a good portion of your supporting life feeling depressed.

To be honest, I guess that’s where the main attraction lies for me. I am after all, a natural pessimist and so it stands to reason that football is my ideal sport. After all, if you go to a game expecting to be disappointed, anything else is a serious bonus!

But the other benefit the great game provides is that the pre-match pub has replaced the traditional campfire as the place where stories and legends are both told and heard. And who can deny the pure unadulterated joy which comes from hearing about someone else’s misfortune or the simple thrill of trying to work out if someone is lying through their teeth or not.

The problem of course, is that every so often, you are expected to contribute. And tragically, I have one of those footballing stories that tread the fine line between bizarre and bullshit. A story that I still have difficulty believing even though I was the central figure. In short, I once saved a penalty taken by my own team in a game that we lost. Confused? Oh, it gets worse than that. Much worse.

You see during my time in the RAF, I was the manager of our Squadron football team. A team who I have to admit, were rubbish. The sad thing was, I was also a member of the defence and as we were leaking goals at a frightening rate, I eventually got to the point where I dropped myself.

Come one particular match, against the side who were top of the table, we all turned up as normal but due to circumstances beyond their control, the opposing side turned up with only ten players. However, as they were superior to us in every aspect of their play, they were quite happy to play us with ten men, which, if nothing else, was pretty demeaning for our lot.

Of course, the inevitable happened and just before half time, in the only attack we had managed to mount during the previous forty minutes, their keeper got seriously hurt and was carried off. As a result, they were now down to nine men and it looked like the game would have to be abandoned. However, sensing at least a point for my lads, I offered to go in goal for them with the promise that I would, of course, be totally impartial!

Following various warnings from their captain and bearing in mind that we had only threatened their goal once in the first half, they reluctantly accepted my offer and I thus took my place in goal against my own team. But such was the lack of skill exhibited from my own players (this gets confusing) I had nothing to do for the rest of the half and at the break, gave my own team a rousing pep-talk designed to get them playing well enough to score a goal against me.

However, as the second-half progressed, despite their numerical superiority my own team remained pegged back in their (our) own half but the team I was keeping goal for still could not score. As the final minutes ticked away and that elusive point became ever closer to reality, a hopeful punt from our defence  (and that’s our as in my own team) released our centre forward who came charging toward me followed by their defence (the team I was playing for) who clearly who had little faith in my saving their skin. As our striker entered the box with me firmly rooted to the line, they hacked him to the ground and the ref awarded a penalty.

So, to clarify: I was now standing on the goal line, facing a penalty about to be taken by a player from my own side who, were they to score, could well end up securing their (our) first win of the season, and against the top of the table side.

Their (their) whole side were now giving me dire warnings of what would happen to me if I didn’t at least make an effort to save it whilst my (my) lot were shouting at me to let it in. Meantime, I was trying to let our centre forward know that I would go to my left by using exaggerated eye movements etc, and it seemed that judging by the wry smile on his face, he had got the message. As he ran up, I dived to my left and he, thinking that I had actually been telling him to put it to that side, put his shot exactly where I ended up with the result that the ball hit me and bounced back into open play.

Such was the shock of my actually saving a penalty taken by my own side, that their (their) defenders won the ball, screamed up field and scored whilst my own team remained rooted firmly to the spot in total disbelief. The result being that I ended up on both the winning and losing sides.

Inevitably, as soon as the whistle blew, the repercussions began and eventually, after a blazing row, I resigned my position as manager and never played for the team again.

You see, I told you. Unbelievable.

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wings-of-a-sparrow-final.pngMy latest novel, Wings of a Sparrow, is now available in both paperback and ebook formats. Just click on the relevant link to purchase via Amazon. It’s also available via all online retailers and in good bookshops.

For details of all current, future and previous books and movie projects, please visit www.dougiebrimson.com

 

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