As In Bloom is my first book for young adults, the one question that seemed to reign supreme when doing the publicity rounds is “what advice would you give to young writers?”
The truth is I have none. So invariably I just shrug and mumble something about reading widely and not being disappointed by rejection.
However, as it is now eight years since I first signed up with a literary agent, below I have bulleted the advice I wish I’d received as a young author. Take of it what you will.
– “More sex and adjectives” is a good approach to life, but a bad creative manifesto. Tone it down a bit. They get the gist.
– Show don’t tell.
– Do it because you love it and treat everything beyond that as a bonus.
– Email is not like real life – introductions do not require Dutch courage. Do not drink before submitting work. It will end in a hangover you do not deserve.
– Everyone’s selling something. Do not be afraid to push yourself. But learn from the mistakes of the creeps that do nothing but.
– With regards to the above, balance is key. As things stand you put more effort into writing books than you do into ‘being an author.’ Keep it that way.
– The only people who “sell out” are those with something worth buying in the first place. Don’t be a fucking idiot- swallow your pride, take the money, and RUN!
– Try to be kind. There are always a hundred ways to say something is crap. The real skill is finding an interesting way to say why you liked it. The older you get the more you should treat acerbic put-downs like two-day benders: infrequent but spectacular.
– Enjoyment shines through. Write the books you’d like to read.
– Read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ because it’s so good. Do not read any other writing guides. They’re shit. Spend your money on adventures and the like. If you know how to write then all you need is experience. The rest will come naturally.
– Every embarrassment makes you feel like the world is ending. It is not. One day each mortification will become an anecdote.
– Don’t take boring books to read on the bus because you want people to be impressed by how clever you are. You won’t even talk to strangers, let alone sleep with someone who approaches you on the top deck of the 363. Take a book you enjoy and stop being such a tit.
– A good story, well written with believable characters is all it ever has to be- which in itself is a big ask. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel. It works just fine as it is. Nobody wants to read an eighty thousand word Power Point presentation on your command of the simile.
– There must always be a beginning, a middle, and an end (no matter what order you stick them in.)
– Semi-colons are not as sophisticated as you think they are.
– In time you will learn to enjoy others’ success. It is a good sign. A healthy industry is the most you can ask for. The rest is up to you.
– Never accept a drink from an aspiring author. It will be the longest pint of your life. Pretend to receive an urgent phone call and throw yourself into the nearest taxi.
– (Try to be kinder)
– Lower your expectations.
– Send thank you cards.
– Stop worrying so much. And stop being in such a hurry. Finishing a book is a huge achievement in itself. Sits back and enjoy the spoils every once in a while.
– Read widely and don’t be disappointed by rejection.
One day you will be proud.
In Bloom is published tomorrow in paperback, you can order it here
Follow Matthew on twitter: @mizzlecrizzle