Advice for writers from Martin Amis #writing #amwriting #MartinAmis #author #writers #advice


I recently came across some advice from Martin Amis and thought I’d write about what it meant to me. Some resonated, some, well, not so much. But then not everyone sees everything the same way. And I certainly appreciate advice from such a seasoned and intelligent writer.

Martin Amis’s Rules for Writers

Write in long-hand: when you scratch out a word, it still exists there on the page. On the computer, when you delete a word it disappears forever. This is important because usually your first instinct is the right one.

Sorry – not going to happen. There is so much I love about being able to type into a word processor. It is so easy to move ideas around, adapt and expand. And deleting words on the computer is not always the end – keep drafts (very easy to do) and use the backspace key if its a recent change…

Use any anxiety you have about your writing — or your life — as fuel: “Ambition and anxiety: that’s the writer’s life.”

Probably depends on what I am writing about…

Never say “sci-fi.” You’ll enrage purists. Call it SF.

Who cares? Surely that’s pretentious crap… Having said that, I don’t read or write sci-fi (although I used to when I was a kid, and always called it sci-fi)

Don’t dumb down: always write for your top five percent of readers.

Fair point – I try not to dumb down. I use long words when they seem appropriate and try to treat my readers as though they have some intelligence. (Which sadly does not always happen with romance).

Never pun your title, simpler is usually better: Lolita turns out to be a great title; couldn’t be simpler.

Not sure what he means? Anyone got any insights into this one?

Watch out for words that repeat too often.

Great tip – something I check for carefully and my editor usually picks up. Adding ‘favourite’ words into ‘find’ and ‘replace’ in word will also help.

Don’t start a paragraph with the same word as previous one. That goes doubly for sentences.

Yes – another excellent tip. This one is fairly easy to scan for. I have picked it up a few times lately.

Stay in the tense.

Very important. Fortunately this is something I m pretty strong on.

Inspect your “hads” to see if you really need them.

Tricky if you are writing in past tense. Definitely a good one to check out!

Never use “amongst.” “Among.” Never use “whilst.” Anyone who uses “whilst” is subliterate.

Yep – I try to avoid these, although I do see them from time to time. Subliterate is pretty strong though – I wouldn’t say that. Some people just aren’t taught these things..

Try not to write sentences that absolutely anyone could write.

Fine line between avoiding ‘sentences anyone could write’ and being fussy and pretentious… Just saying.

You write the book you want to read. That’s my rule.

That’s definitely my rule too. I like reading my books, even though I have to read them quite a few times… (Although sometimes it can get a bit wearying when on the sixth read-through!)

You have to have a huge appetite for solitude.

Indeed you do. Fortunately I like being alone and quiet for a few hours a day.

Thanks for the advice Martin 🙂

To delegate or not to delegate – Using time wisely Part 3 #time management #time #delegation #efficiency #writers #writing


Delegation – something many of us shy away from. We like to be independent, do things for ourselves. Or we are too shy to ask for help. Or we don’t want to bother others. Or we don’t want to spend money on something we can do ourselves. Or we think we can somehow find the time to do everything ourselves. Or we don’t trust anyone else to do things – even things that aren’t that important. Or we’ve always done it on our own, so we need to keep doing that, Or…. Seriously?

It is so important to find good ways to get things done, and it is not always ourselves who are the best or only people who can do things. If there is someone in your team or your family who can add value to a task and get some/most/all of it done, then why not share the load?

Yet it is not always easy to let go. You have to have people you can trust, with the right skills, etc., etc. There are lots of reasons (excuses) why many of us are slow to delegate. Here are some reasons why you should give it serious consideration:

1 Your time is precious. Maybe it’s worth more than money – maybe there are some things that you do that you could delegate to someone else, so that you can spend more time on what you are best at.

For example – house maintenance, cleaning, painting… sure they are all things you could do yourself, but are there any other options? Can you afford to buy yourself some time by hiring someone in to do it?

2 Other people may thrive if they are given opportunities to help you with your work

For example – specialised work tasks. Perhaps you are the best person for the job, but sometimes there are others who would be happy to have an opportunity to try. They may make some mistakes, but if they are good people and you trust them, then they will learn. And that can help to take the load off you (plus add an additional perspective).

3 Your work will be improved with additional perspectives

For example – editing your book. Of course you need to do a certain amount of this yourself, but getting in others to help, including a professional editor and beta readers, will IMPROVE your book beyond whatever you might be able to do on your own.

So get to it! Spread your tasks around – delegate. Find some helpers and share the load! And let’s hope that it leads you to getting more done and achieving better results for the stuff that’s important to you 🙂

The ‘Two Minute Rule’ – Using time wisely Part 2 #timemanagement #time #efficiency #writing


The two minute rule has transformed my working and writing life…

The question to ask yourself is: of all the jobs I have to do, which can I do quickly? (ie, in 2 minutes)

If you can do something in two minutes – then do it! No point having trivial tasks hanging over you, and it will feel good to get them out of the way… In fact, it will give you a sense of achievement and motivation that is likely to make it easier to get on with the harder stuff.

Then when it comes to the harder stuff, there are various techniques for dealing with that. Firstly, make priorities. What do you most need to get done? What is the most important task? What is less important and can perhaps be discarded (or delegated)… You can only do so much, so focus on the things that simply must be done.

And try to avoid procrastination (I have another post on that)

Good luck!

Beta Readers are so important! Some tips for working with them… #Readers #beta-readers #writing #writers #book

6 Tips for Using Beta Readers

Probably one of the hardest things of all is the first time you share your toiled-over manuscript with beta-readers. Will they like it? Won’t they? Will their feedback make you wither inside and wonder whether months of your life have just been wasted? Will they find the story as engrossing as you have? – Find the characters engaging?, etc. etc.

It is hard to take that step but certainly rewarding. If you seek a range of opinions from the perspective of readers (preferably people who enjoy the genre) then you will learn so much more about your work. And once you have processed their advice, then your book will surely benefit. The trick is knowing what to run with and what to leave out. Your book cannot be everything to everyone, and in the end only you can make a final call on what will work. But pay attention to a variety of perspectives, because no one person (ie. you) will have all the answers.

6 Tips for Using Beta Readers.

This article reminded me that I should work harder to give my beta-readers good information about some of the things I want to check about the book. Do the characters make sense, or are they confusing? Is there the right amount of back-story, are motivations clear? Who do they sympathize with? What seems real, and what seems odd? There are so many questions the writer can ask. The important thing is to decide what you would like to know before you hand over that book. And make sure you seek a range of perspectives.

I truly value feedback from my beta-readers – I know it has helped to make my books better. There are some things I can’t change – like the fact that I do not have much humour in my writing. I’m afraid if people prefer funny books, then they should try other authors. Because humour is not my forte, and forced humour is just painful. I know my strengths, so I will try to play to them. I love story-telling – taking people with me on an emotional journey. So things like adding more dialog for certain scenes, clarifying events in others. That is easy. So thanks you to those who have read and provided feedback on my first four books. It helped me to gain confidence and certainly improved each of the stories in different ways. And as for my new series of historical romances, the journey for them is just beginning.

If anyone is interested in historical romance (sexy) and would like to join my small band of valued beta-readers, I would be happy to hear from you. Free copies provided! Thanks

My current series The French Connection follows the lives of a French Comte and his associates as they escape the French Revolution. “Isabel’s Choice is nearly ready for publication, and ‘Temptation’ will shortly be returned by the editor.


Great tip for avoiding procrastination – the two minute rule! #writers #writing #procrastination #success

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I found this post by James Clear really helpful. How many of us put off starting something and waste time trying to avoid doing it? I’m guessing all of us do it at some time or another…

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Here’s a quick and easy tip to try. Starting now.

What are you going to start? I’m going to get stuck into those final corrections for ‘Isabel’s Choice’ that I have been managing to avoid for days.

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Change your habits one step at a time – best way to make real progress #motivation #improvement #writers #writing

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Best advice I’ve read all week on how to become more motivated and achieve long-term success.

I have been trying to make small changes in my life – as James suggests. For example, one of the best motivators for my writing has been keeping a success journal. Because I am mapping every small and large win on facebook, I can see I am making progress. It makes it more likely that I will turn up!

I also have a pedometer – perhaps I should start to use that more reliably?

How do you keep motivated? What habits do you want to modify? Try small changes and reward yourself when you keep it up.