How to get ahead in writing. The business of self.

writing screenwriting author publishing film self-publishingOf the numerous emails that land in my inbox, a good number involve the issue of advice.

Occasionally, these mails are of the kind which suggest various things to do to myself that are anatomically impossible (which merely proves that women do indeed have a quite nasty side to them) but in the main, they are asking for advice on writing or making that leap from the laptop to the shelves of Waterstones or the screens of Cineworld.

Given that I never set out to be a writer of any kind -as many people have pointed out!- I have often wondered why that is. After all, I am not and probably never will be either a Booker Prize winning novelist or an Oscar winning screenwriter, and whilst I enjoy what I do and always put in 110%, the truth is that I am definitely not one of those people who are driven to write. Make no mistake, the day that my 6th lottery number pops out of that machine is the day I’ll have typed my last letter and from that point on, life will revolve around doing as little as possible!

I suspect the answer lies in the fact that unlike many other authors I am reasonably easy to contact but there have also been occasions when there has definitely been an element of ‘if he can do it, so can I so I might as well ask him how he did it’. To be honest, I have no problem with that largely because there is indeed a degree of truth in it. I’ve always been happy to admit that I did indeed ‘luck’ into writing and I although I have done better than many so-called ‘established’ writers in terms of both output and sales (you’d be surprised how few books some of these apparently successful authors actually sell) I most definitely have no delusions about my position on the Great British literary ladder. As someone once suggested, it is firmly in the ‘bungs on the feet at the bottom’ category.

However, to return to the point, as long as someone has taken the trouble to write to me, I have always responded. Not simply because I think I should but because I hope that one day someone I set on the rocky road of penmanship will strike it big and I’ll get to appear on some kind of TV show celebrating their literary achievements. Let’s face it, chances are that’ll be the only way I manage it!

But recently, a few things have happened which have started to make me wonder about the wisdom of such a policy. Not because I have suddenly started to think that being helpful is a bad idea, but because increasingly, I am being contacted by people who have asked me very specific questions. Usually involving the names and contact details of agents, publishers and even TV producers.

To be fair, many of these requests have come from American authors looking to break into the UK market rather than from ‘newbies’ looking to get a foot in the door but having worked in the ‘creative’ world for some time now, I have learnt two very important lessons.

First, contacts are everything and second, the most valuable currency of all are ideas. Which is why both are much sought after and even occasionally stolen. Indeed, I could tell you some stories about certain people, but I best not.

However, the fact remains that whilst I have become (almost) used to the gut-wrenching feeling of being shafted by people who work in the TV and film industry, I am now starting to feel the same way about writing and that has to stop. If only because it eats into my time and therefore costs me money.

So whilst I will happily continue to help anyone who is trying to break into publishing or anything else for that matter, I am no longer so receptive to requests from anyone who has ever earned a penny (or a cent) from their writing. Unless of course any kind of reciprocal arrangement or better still, a fee is involved!

Pondering this last night, the thought struck me that rather than upset 50% of the population with another diatribe about women and/or football, it might be a good idea to use this blog to offer up a bit of advice to those looking to set out on the rocky road of penmanship for the first time. It is the same advice I use as the basis of every talk I ever give on writing and is based on six very basic rules which come in a very strict order.

1.   If you cannot take criticism, do NOT write for public consumption. No matter how good a writer you think you are, at some point, you will have to show your work to someone else be it a partner, friend, agent or publisher.

Trust me, no matter how good a writer you are, sooner or later someone is going to come back with a negative response and it hurts. Some can take it, others can’t. The key is to take all criticism as constructive and learn from it.

But if you think it’s bad when you first start out, wait until the presses have rolled and the reviews begin. Any author who says they never read their reviews is a bloody liar and whilst I’ve been lucky enough to have some awesome ones in my time (‘The best book ever written on football hooliganism’ Daily Mail) I’ve also had some horrors. The worst being simply ‘Yeah right. Now fuck off.’ courtesy of Time Out.

The fact that both of these were for the very same book proves many things and whilst the initial inclination following a bad review is to either hang yourself or track down the offending individual (I took the latter course of action with Time Out but that’s another story) the simple truth of the matter is that they are just one persons opinion. But as any publisher will tell you, any review is better than no review and that is very true.

2.   Write what you know. It is an old adage and the source of much discussion in writers circles but to me, it is absolutely spot on. Not only does it save on research time, but if you know the subject well, it will come across on the page. Conversely if you don’t, you will spend all of your time having to deal with people who will take great delight in pointing out your mistakes (see above!)

3.   Join a local writing group. You might think they are full of geeky nerds or middle aged women seeking to fill their time (and to be fair, some are) but a good one can provide huge amounts of advice and encouragement. A great one can make you a great writer.

Never forget, getting into print is incredibly difficult and so the more advice you can obtain from people who are at the coal face or who have been through it, the better.

4.   Never write to get rich. Very few (and I mean, VERY few) published authors earn a living wage from their work. The days of huge advances for first time authors are long gone folks. And don’t think screenwriting is well paid either.

OK, if you’ve got a decent track record and a good agent you should do pretty well but I still receive emails every week offering me opportunities to write spec scripts (that’s for free) and once had a very well known film producer offer me £500 to write a script from scratch. Obviously I told him to f**k off but someone else took the job within days and no, it didn’t ever get made.

There is only really one reason to write and that’s because you want to do it. If it’s good enough, everything else will follow. How you can make that happen however, is an entirely different blog!

5.   Write, write, and write. It’s a fairly obvious thing to say but the more you write, the easier it becomes. It’s a skill and it needs constant honing.

And finish everything you start. You might know it’s rubbish from the end of the first chapter but trying to turn it into something half decent is a great exercise and fabulous experience. There is also the very real chance that as you are working, something will click into the creative box in your brain which you will be able to use on something else.

One other point I will make here, in my opinion there is no such thing as writers block. As far as I am concerned it’s a myth that was invented by writers to cover up laziness or lack of creativity. If you get stuck, it’s simply because your idea doesn’t work and you should have worked that out at the planning stage anyway.

6.   Most importantly of all, enjoy it! It’s supposed to be fun you know and if it isn’t, why bloody do it?

So what are you waiting for?

@dougiebrimson

football, comedy, humour, rivals, derby, soccer, premier league, championship, manchester united, chelsea, liverpool I desperately need to do some work on my Amazon author page  this page, primarily by adding some new titles to it! So I’m happy to pass on news that there will be at least one new book coming in 2018! That’s assuming I can finish this bloody script I’m currently working on.

In the meantime, you can buy all my existing books, including the football comedy Wings of a Sparrow and the #1 thrillers,The Crew and Top Dog from either Amazon or iTunes.  

Please click on the relevant link for more information.

 
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Dear Labour Party… An open letter from a non-supporter.

labour, tory, lib-dems, electionAs you seemingly haven’t noticed, the last four attempts to get a vote of confidence in your party have resulted in the delivery of something of a kicking by the British electorate.

The most recent being yesterdays local government elections where traditionally, the party in opposition (that’s you apparently) have done quite well.

Inevitably, both the mainstream press and social media are currently full of how it all went horribly wrong for you yet as far as I’ve seen, no one has had the balls to call it as really it is, or at least how we non-Labour supporters see it.

So, as a 59-year-old bloke who has never voted Labour and probably never will, I thought I’d let you know why with a few simple bullet points which may or may not help.

  • One of the most important things you have to understand, and which a majority of your supporters seem incapable of grasping, is that calling people idiots, stupid or racist just because they don’t agree with you is counter productive.
  • Your supporters can scream, shout and protest all they like but unless you recognise that the silent majority are silent for a reason, you’re never going to get anywhere. UKIP might be finished as a political force but they cracked it when it needed cracking and you can learn a lot of lessons from them and how Nigel Farage did what he did.
  • Failing to grasp that the vast majority of people in this country are hard-working, decent, respectful, law-abiding tax payers who are sick and tired of you promising to prop up every other bugger but them is also counter productive.
  • You have some truly awful people in the upper echelons of your party. Your leader might be a lovely bloke but he has never once come across as a person I’d want to see at the helm of my country. However, he’s not the worst. The odious Diane Abbott takes that spot and every time she opens her mouth, it strengthens resolve against you. However, the arrogant John McDonnell is not far behind her.
  • On which note, speaking as an armed forces veteran, your leaderships history of cozying up to the murders of the IRA whilst leaving our soldiers to the mercy of the courts continues to prove more damaging than you clearly recognise.
  • The anti-semitism issue is killing you, as it should.
  • Patriotism is not racist. It’s not even xenophobic. Stop making out that it is and show some faith in the UK and it’s people.
  • Banging on about issues such as the NHS, policing, defence and housing is fine if you provide properly thought out alternatives, but you don’t.
  • Similarly, promising to prop up the lazy and the feckless at our expense isn’t doing you any favours. Nor is pounding away at the rich when most of your MP’s and former ministers are sickeningly minted. Indeed, hypocrisy is never good so calling the government out on something when your history on that same subject is equally dubious is plain stupidity.
  • Immigration IS a problem to many people and most of those blame you. Many live in areas which traditionally vote Labour so if you want them to vote for you again, come up with a policy that recognises their concerns and deals with them in a way that isn’t defined by political correctness but by their reality.
  • Wheeling out a succession of champagne socialists to urge the electorate to vote for you merely underlines the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality which has divided your party. Eddie Izzard strolling around in a pink beret with freshly applied lipstick might attract a few headlines and appease the snowflakes but to the average working man (and woman) it’s embarrassing. And as for Owen Jones…
  • Once in a while, take the government to task on an issue which the vast majority of the country would support you on. The madness of Overseas Aid is an obvious example.
  • Admitting you got it wrong once in a while is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Finally, like it or not, Brexit is going to happen and the majority of this country want it. Just as importantly, they want the PM to get tough with the EU, not bend over and let them screw us, again. So back the government and by definition, your country. Because not doing so is not only damaging to you, but were you to get behind the country, you might actually start to get the electorate on your side. Well, some of them anyway.

There you go. Hope that helps a little, but not too much obviously.

Best wishes

@dougiebrimson

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football, soccer, comedy, cost of football, manchester united, liverpool, derby, watfordJust in case you didn’t already know, all of my books and DVD’s are available from both Amazon and iTunes.

Further information at dougiebrimson.com

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