What to write? And more importantly, how to write? Wouldn’t it be useful and realistic to have practical, universally relevant advice on these very subjects presented in one unpretentious, no-nonsense article? I posed these very ponderances to a handful of Beautighe’s most successful and well regarded imaginary authors, who generously agreed to provide their own tried and true Top Ten Tips for all clueless, aspiring writers. I’ve shared these Top Ten Tips in the following section of this blog post. Read on to locate aforementioned following section, which I mentioned earlier in this current section.
The first list is provided by the renowned and respected Lord Horryd Twattington-Spiff, who brought us “The Truffle With Harry”; the brutal and unwavering biography of Harrison Porkleigh, a man-turned-pig-turned-man-again, and his unfortunate brush with the Darque Arts, the resulting cognitive dissonance surrounding breakfast, and the frustration of pearl casting aspirations amidst increasingly prohibitive and ironic circumstances.
- Rise no later than the birds. Preferably before the little blighters. This way, one may enjoy the unadulterated silence- or, if one is less hard of hearing as myself, the cacophony of yawning spewing forth from the filthy mouths of lazy peasants as they toil idly in the fields. Walk the length of your estate- weather allowing or not! Walking ‘midst the hills and moors in inclement weather strengthens physical and mental fortitude, and stimulates the imagination. Indeed, the idea for my novel “My Balls” came to me amidst a blizzard, when I fell into an icy pond and struck my forehead against a frozen duck.
- Breakfast cereal is a ludicrous notion. Keep away from the stuff at all costs.
- My balls.
- Take on a mistress. Only between the hours of midnight and 3:00am, however, and watch her around the silverware. Actually, Chive- can you give the cabinet a quick once over? I forgot to check yesterday. The one in the hall, yes. There’s a good chap.
- Unmarried? Remain that way, lad!
- For God’s sake, limit transitive verbs to a minimum of 8 per chapter. Any more than that and you run the risk of sounding like Wonder Woman’s ‘to do’ list, *guffaw guffaw*. In the first 80 years of my career, regrettably, I used them willy nilly. I shudder to look back at those days! * hortle chortle* But, one must shoulder one’s balls and trudge on. Pass that pork belly, will you, Floptington. There’s a lad. Mind my balls. Whizzo! *muffled noises*
- Any book under 900 pages isn’t worth writing. Leave your 300 page pamphlets to the wind and go back to Cafe Latte commentary on bloody instagram where you belong.
- Use a typewriter, not a computer. Keeps the fingers robust. No respectable writer I know of ever typed words on anything but a sturdy Olivetti. Never use the internet, either, unless you wish to reveal yourself as a technological sycophant. No internet! (Even pornhub. Get your jollyrockers off to antique erotica instead. If you’re going to deploy the troops to Towelsville, at least let the poor fellows die with some dignity, ie. at the hands of hands accustomed to handling dusty old postcards from 1920’s France)
- Become acquainted with my body of work, if you’re not already. Pick it to the bone. Take these bones and coat them in your own flesh and blood. Literally. Put your balls into it. This is the art of writing, my boy! Oh, and.. girl…thingy. *shrugs then coughs uncontrollably* Chive! A new handkerchief, if you will. See that Maid scrapes this one out before chucking it in the wash…now, dust my balls, there’s a good lad……yes, with the new feather duster…ooh- tickly! Oh my…*trails off*
The next wheelbarrow of wisdom comes from award winning writer, Amelia M. E. Leah, Author of the spellbinding and poetically rich “Cascade of Crows”, in which we meet ornithologist, Clara, who is on the cusp of proving her hypothesis that corvids are not only capable of graffiti, laughing, and swearing , but are the original masterminds behind them. Her experiments may lead her to amazing discoveries and fame in her field, but also threaten to destroy her relationship with her prudish, insufferably judgemental neighbour, George, whom she loathes.
- Remember meter. Manipulate meter. Meter, meter, pumpkin eater.
- Disallow alliteration; no matter how alluring, alleviate; circumnavigate! Stop strained sequences of esses strung in ceaseless succession. And try not to rhyme too much; you’re a novelist, not a rapper. Fool.
- I’m serious about meter. 4/4 timing; minimal rhyming. I’m reiterating on the alliterating, which you may find frustrating; addressing rhyme a second time, which may not seem of prim…ary importance to you, but it is, so take it on board, or forget fame; forget awards.
- Don’t write from a desire for fame or reward. Say what you need to say, unashamedly and unselfconsciously. Fuck the critics!
- Pick your target audience and cater to it. You are not an artist, you are a waiter in a literary restaurant. Remember this.
- Avoid contradiction. Decide what to say and say it with conviction. You’re not here as a waiter. You’re the head chef, in the kitchen. You could probably hock up into the soup before it’s served, and nobody would even notice. I don’t know what that means, but you must pretend to if you want to be taken seriously as a writer.
- Never name chapters. Number them neatly. And in order.
- Learn to let go of your work. Once you’ve completed your novel, delete the files; rip up the documents; burn the manuscripts. Destroy it completely. Even if it’s fantastic, and took 6 years to write. Time is nothing. Time is nonexistent. Time is infinite. Time is what you make of it. Time is a Pink Floyd track . But time is also of the essence, so don’t waste it.
- Don’t just write. Labour over each sentence for at least 2 days in order to minimise rewriting and editing later. Forget “flow”. Make every word immaculate. Now by this, I don’t mean to literally write the word “immaculate” over and over until you’ve written it enough times to fill a book. That would be plagiarism, as fans of my early conceptual work “Immaculate” would know. My point is, take the time to refine as you go. My books take about 15 years to write. And this is why they are the epitome of brilliance and perfection.
- Just write. Don’t think about it. Write and write until you’re done. THEN go back and edit and rewrite. Make it as good as you possibly can, but know that perfection is nonexistant. Be humble.
Next, some hard-hitting advice from the hard-hitting writer Max O’Ffence, who brought us the hard-hitting “Fuck off and leave me to my super hard drugs, you massive shits” ( now a major motion picture directed by Roger Federer, starring John Revolting and Una Thermal).
- Fuck off
- Successful and glamorous
- Career and lifestyle
- You massive shits.
And lastly, some sage words from Beautighe’s best loved Crime Fiction writer- and personal friend of mine- A. K. Drusillacado, whose latest offering of psychological suspense “Before the milk turns” will be out any time now; probably when you least expect it. Extra thanks to Ms. Drusillacado for taking the time to answer these during the middle of the birth of her second child, Ochroma Pyramidale Applecart Oberon Titanium Mig-Welder Drusillacado. Congratulations to you and your wonderful family!
- “Heroes and villains… Just see what you’ve done…do-do-do-do…” What do the Beach Boys mean by this? It doesn’t matter. It’s already stuck in your head. How? Finding – and closely guarding- the answer to this is your mission as a writer.
- Before starting your novel, write character outlines. Fill them in with texta. Interview these characters. Better still- interrogate them. If they don’t cough up the information, feed them to the fishes. Interrogate the fishes. If the fishes don’t cough up the information, fry them. Serve them with a home made tartare sauce and rustic potato wedges. Two, four, six, eight- dig in, don’t wait. Interrogate your family. If they don’t cough up the info, feed them to the fishes. Interrogate those fishes ( which I’m tempted to describe as “fish”, but won’t, for literary reasons beyond my grasp ) . If they don’t cough up, maybe leave it there; you’ve become trapped in a cycle. Seek salvation in the pain of having fed your entire family to fish, by using it to imbue your work with authenticity.
- Make the reader feel like a detective. Engage them by hiding key pages around your city, leaving a trail of subtle but tantalising clues ( lime and black pepper crisps, for example).
- Make it plausible. In my initial brainstorming for “Dribble, Fiddle, Fig” I’d envisioned Durian as a school girl! As you know, she ended up as an 82 year old grandmother. Sometimes it’s necessary to tweak certain details- or remove them completely-in order to make them more believable. And in this case, the story came together more cohesively with an elderly woman as the main character. Although I was still rather attached to my original idea, in the end, it was simply more plausible to have a blind elderly lady bumping off her granddaughter’s rival soccer team one by one with an antique Stradivarius and disposing of them in an orchard than have a 6 year old do it. Which brings me to my next piece of advice:
- Don’t get too attached to your characters. It’s terribly needy. Be a total bastard. Cheat on them. Dis their clothing choices. Leave the seat up, despite numerous polite requests not to. Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.
- Include at least ONE helicopter chase in each story. “Dribble, Fiddle, Fig” had five!
- If you’re writing about crime, make the crimes weird. Choose motives which are plausible yet original. Jealous lovers, sociopathic-since-childhood serial killers, and demonic children, have been done a billion times. Cats which are fed up with the same damn dry food- day in, day out, finally cracking and going on a human-poisoning spree, only to be thwarted by a red headed cat shelter worker who’s secretly “more of a dog person” ? Not so much.
- Consider how your writing will be affected if your book is translated into languages other than the one originally used. You’re likely going to have to renumber the pages.
- Lacking inspiration? Remember, Real Life is the ultimate muse, and every experience is a potential writing prompt. I’d been suffering the worst case of writer’s block in my life after the launch of my debut novel, “To Slice a Watermelon”. I remember I was absentmindedly pairing socks when I dropped a pair which rolled under the couch.When I reached under to grab it, to my surprise, I found an old skull under there. When I questioned my 4 year old, Semolina Jane, she admitted to graverobbing. Although I was initially annoyed, I couldn’t stay mad for long. Not just because she was such a cutie at that age ( still is! Little huggybear <3), but because without that very incident, the seeds of what would be “Dribble, Fiddle, Fig” would never have been planted. Semmy and I still laugh about it today.
- Finally, by all means seek advice, but when advice doesn’t resonate, do the exact opposite. Use semi colons in every sentence; after every word, if possible. Write sober, edit drunk. Compose entire paragraphs of the words, “suddenly”, “very” and “quite”. This is how you break new ground. Remember Samaia Ladyperson’s poem “Suddenly It Got Quite Quiet In A Very Very Sudden, Silent Way”? Of course you do. It’s pure genius. And genius heeds no rules.
So there you have it. Follow these simple guidelines without question, and you too will soon be on your way to being a brilliant and successful writer.
Stay tuned for next week’s exciting installment of ‘Top 10 Tips’: The Origami Edition, where I meet with esteemed A4 enthusiast, Johnson Bollock, to discuss rectangles, parallelograms, and the mythical Oblong, plus interview the nation’s leading Origamists on how to fold the ultimate chatterbox . See you there, for all those things, plus more things!