Ep 28 Stunning writing studios, a ridiculously priced comic book, extreme reading and we talk to doctor turned bestselling author Nick Earls.

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In Episode 28 of So you want to be a writer, a beautiful poem of the same name, stunning writing studios, the most valuable comic of all time, the extreme reading experiment, the book ‘From Unknown to Expert’ by Catriona Pollard, Writer in Residence Nick Earls, chromecast, how to manage your ideas and more!

Click play below to listen to the podcast. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher Radio. Or add the podcast RSS feed manually to your favourite podcast app.

Show Notes

10 Stunning Writing Studios

‘So you want to be a writer’ poem via @trevoryoung

The woman who went to the library and read every book on the shelf

The Most Valuable Comic Book Of All Time Is Up For Auction On eBay

From Unknown To Expert: How to use clever PR and social media to become a recognised expert

Some hints on applying for arts funding & fellowships

Writer in Residence

NickNick Earls is the author of novels including The Fix, Zigzag Street, Bachelor Kisses, The True Story of Butterfish and Perfect Skin and the collection of short stories Welcome To Normal.

His work has been published internationally in English and in translation. Nick is based in Brisbane, Queensland.

His latest book is Analogue Men.

The blog post discussed in the interview is here.

Nick’s Website
Nick on Twitter
Nick on Facebook
Random House on Twitter

Web Pick

Chromecast

Working Writer’s Tip

I have so many ideas for freelance stories that I’m struggling to keep track – how do you collate and manage your ideas?

Answered in the podcast!

Allison’s new book series

The Mapmaker Chronicles

Your hosts

Allison Tait
Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait
@valeriekhoo

Email us
podcast at writerscentre.com.au

Transcript

Allison
Nick Earls is the author of 13 novels for adults and teenagers, a trilogy for children and three collections of short fiction, many of which have been bestsellers in Australia and internationally. His new novel is called Analogue Men and it’s in all good bookshops, analog and digital, as we speak.

Hi, Nick! 

Nick
Hello, Allison. How are you going?

Allison
I’m very well, thank you. Welcome to our show and thank you very much for coming along. You’ve written 13 novels, the first of which is now I think about 18 years old, so old enough to drink.

Nick
Yes!

Allison
They’ve won awards, they’ve been turned into films, they’ve generally done quite well for themselves overall. How do you keep your writing fresh and funny when you’ve written so many books over so long a period?

Nick
I think  that’s a really good question. When I started out, I think 20 years or so ago, I would have expected that after a few books, four books, five books, something like that, it would have felt like a bit of a production line. I would have felt as though I kind of learned most of the things I needed to learn and then I could put together a story and just write it and it might lose some of its magic. But, fortunately, it hasn’t.

I’ve recently been working on my 20th book, which is a children’s book for next year, what I have worked out along the way is that really each novel starts out as a new puzzle I don’t quite know how to solve yet. I’ve got to learn something to solve it. I think each time I write a novel I learn a bit more about being a writer, and it still feels like an adventure each time I set out to create something.

The more I’ve learnt the more I’m aware that I don’t know everything, but that kind of keeps it interesting. For me, each time a little cluster of ideas starts to turn into something and starts looking like a story then I realise that’s one that one day will end up being written, then it gets its own pile of notes and off it goes.

For me, I couldn’t do this, I wouldn’t do this, if I just felt I had to put out another book. Really there’s got to be something in that new idea that has got me too excited to say ‘no’ to it. It’s the ideas that I can’t talk myself out of that end up becoming novels.

Allison
Are they sequentially useful in the sense that you finish a book and you have a new idea, or are you sort of like seduced by shiny new ideas whilst you’re halfway through writing a book? How does it work?

Nick
There’s nothing in my life that’s sequentially useful — in my work life anyway — no, my personal life too. I’ve got a son who’s not quite five, so of course things aren’t sequential there.

Allison
No.

Nick
I’m forever badgering him to do things. There is the potential for the lure of the shiny new object, but what I’ve worked out is that if I write an idea down I don’t lose it. If I come up with an idea that I’m really keen to write and that I think will become something someday I can actually delay the gratification of writing it now and not lose anything by writing it down and putting it in a safe place. That way I can stick to the thing that I have to stick to at that moment.

The reason that I’ve been able to put so many books out is not because I managed to throw each one together particularly quickly, but it’s because I’ve got things at different stages at any one time. I’ll only be writing one book because I can only focus on one thing to write, but I’ll still be able to accumulate ideas for other ones and to do that in a way that doesn’t interfere with the thing I’m writing. At the moment I write it down I can erase it from my brain and get back to the thing that I have to work on.

In the case of Analogue Men, for example, the first idea for that came along about seven years or so ago and changed shape a few times in the next five years. I only became really clear on what it was going to be about, and that I was definitely going to write it, a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, I had written a whole range of other things. I think it’s much better and much more fully worked out because it’s had that period of gestation. But, it’s not as though I’m just kind of sitting down in splendid isolation fiddling around occasionally with ideas, waiting until things are ready, I’ve got things that are ready and while I write them other things can get closer to readiness when ideas come along.

Yeah, so it started out as — I’m trying to remember how it started out. The thing that drove me to write it was realising that I had years ago had written comedies with central characters in their twenties and thirties. And I had a great time with those, but I felt I kind of had my run of those. I thought I should only go back to comedy if something comes up that really suits that treatment, or if I find a new way in. And I started developing a story about a guy in his forties who has worked away from home quite a lot and he’s coming back to a different job in order to reconnect with his teenage tweens while they’re still teenagers and focus on parenting. And in the process of developing that I realised that 40-something and 40-something now, in a era of perplexing technology, where many of us are regularly outsmarted by our smart phones, that was a way back into comedy and I thought, “That’s the way to write this.”

The first few years of it being a pile of ideas it wasn’t a comedy, then I realised it could be and I came up with Brian Brightman, a radio star that the central character, Andrew, has to work with. Brian Brightman was a kind of awful kind of dangerous talent to have at your radio station, someone who would always say the inappropriate thing as it crossed his mind, someone who had no filter at all. What that meant was when I came up with him it meant that for several years anytime that anything really inappropriate crossed my mind, that I wouldn’t dare to say even in front of my friend, I could write it down and give it to Brian in the novel.

Having that period of time allowed me to accumulate lots more stuff for him and lots more for Andrew, and lots more incidents that could make up the story and get some sense of the shape of the story.

Allison
When you came to write it you had all of that stuff ready to go.

Nick
Yeah, that’s right.

Allison
How do you collate all of that sort of — I mean are you a guy with notebooks, are you a guy with folders, or are you a guy with a Word document? How do you keep all of that stuff together?

Nick
A bit of all three.

Allison
Are you analogue or digital is what I’m asking you.

Nick
Yeah, right. A  bit of both. I don’t use any clever software. I hear about all of these things like Scrivener or whatever, that allow you to have virtual post-it notes or things like that and I think, “I actually don’t need that while I’ve got scrap paper in the house.” And scrap paper can’t be corrupted by a virus or anything, any technological disaster. When ideas come along I write them on the backs of envelopes, old envelopes, or boarding passes from planes or whatever. Then they just kind of go into a file of random ideas. Then a new idea comes along and I think, “Haven’t I got something that might fit with that in an interesting way?” And I go and find that idea and maybe some others. Then they start to — when there’s enough of them they get a manila folder of their own. My technology goes back to 1896, I think, in that case. Manila folder invented immediately following the invention of the filing cabinet.

Allison
It’s a very organic way to write a novel, isn’t it? Like your bits and pieces and maybe this and maybe that — it’s not, “Here’s my character I’m going to sit down and here’s Chapter 1 and off we go…” is it?

Nick
Well, not at that stage, no. That’s kind of the first piece, so I sort of think divergently at first, I toss ideas into the folder, if they might fit, and then when the folder gets really fat and I’m starting to get a sense of the character and the story I actually start to think, “Who is this and what is their journey? And, how do I tell it using the best of what I’ve got here?” Then I start to think convergently and work out which of those ideas I’m going to use. I’ve got various plotting tools that I use where I’ll draw up a timeline or I will know that there will be particular scenes that I want in there and I’ll have several different plot lines and I will have a sense of how each of them will play out and I’ll write those notes on cards and spread them out on the floor in their different plot lines and then eventually merge them all so I can pick them all up and have sixty scene cards in the order I’m likely to write them, or at least a good working order. Then I create an outline document.

Allison
Wow.

Nick
In order to get to that stage I’ve put in a lot of thought about the characters and the story and found a lot of the details and thought, “How will this person observe this particular thing?” “What details can I find or let the reader know about the situation, but will also be telling about the character?” And along the way I start to hear them talk and I make note of the dialogue and that allows me to kind of construct each one as an individual.

All that process goes on before I sit down to write the first draft so that when I sit down to write the first draft I’ve got an outline typically that’s over 20,000 words long, with chunks of the conversation in it and then I write the first draft into that outline. I think that process is why I don’t get writer’s block.

I know that people kind of — it varies — there are some people who will set out to write a novel based on half a page of ideas, but that’s a very different process and often a much slower process and a process that might involve throwing a lot of words out along the way. I prefer not to generate too much stuff that I’m going to throw out, so I prefer to answer lots of my questions when I’m in that kind of developmental stage, before I sit down and do the first draft.

Allison
And you might be developing two or three different things all at the same time, is that right?

Nick
That’s right.

Allison
You might be developing two or three different ideas?

Nick
Yes, and if I don’t have another new idea I’ll have plenty to write over the next five years because I’ve got ideas there. But, what I hope will happen is I will keep having new ideas and I will keep adding ideas to the folders of ideas that are in development at the moment.

Really what happens is that I’ve got a range of things that I might then really put to the test and develop into an outline. Once it gets to that stage it’s going to be the next novel that I write. Usually it’s the one that’s bugging most and just demanding to be written of all the piles of ideas. When I think, “I can’t resist writing this one anymore, I really want to write it.” I think that’s a really good way to feel as you’re about to embark on outlining and then writing a novel, because it’s a lot of words, it’s a lot of tough days of writing. If you’re feeling at the start that you’re desperate to get into it, then that’s so much better than just sort of thinking, “Oh, yeah, this looks like the next one, so I guess I should give it a go.”

Allison
It’s interesting that you say that because, from what you’re describing there that sort of phase of things is quite a time-consuming thing. I really enjoy your blog and you wrote in a blog post about your novels being sort of a snapshot of now in the sense of you’re talking about this with this particular book, but all of your books about where you’re at, at any particular time. This idea of books dating and that particular blog post includes a long discussion about pubic hair fashion, which I found quite funny. How long from that sort of developmental stage all the way through to the end, how long can it take to see it on a shelf? How do you manage to make that ‘now’ with sort of time passing as you’re even working on it?

Nick
In the case of this novel, in particular, that was an issue that I had to really think about. If I’m setting out to write something and set in the 1980s, then the 1980s is fixed in time already, so that’s easy. But, if I’m setting out to write something now I have to work out when ‘now’ is going to be. If I start planning something in 2007 I have to think, “Am I going to set this in 2007, or am I going to try to set it round about the time I write it and also the time it comes out?” Analogue Men was in that category. Yeah, some things did have to go and some of them I worked out along the way, and I thought, “What was it that appealed to me about that thing?” “What does it mean?” “Is it something in 2013,” when I was writing it, “that means the same thing that this did in 2007?” The height of people’s pants have changed and I didn’t notice that, but my editor — it was of course true. I noticed it in life, but not as a novelist. My publisher, in her email to me said, “This kind of tramp stamp and T-bar thing when she bends down and of that, that’s really quite a few years ago. Or are people in Brisbane still dressing that way?” I had to go, “No, no, it’s just that I hadn’t noticed.” I don’t get out much. But, mostly I try to pick things up myself.

It is an interesting thing to have to face. In the end very few readers are going to get too picky about that, but nonetheless you still want to try to get it right, because you don’t want people to stop and have to think a thought that’s outside the book. You don’t want people think, “Oh, really? I wonder why she’s wearing those in 2013. What does that say about her?” I only want them to do that if I want them to do that. I don’t want them to do that because I’ve made the wrong choice.

Allison
I’ll put a link to that particular blog post in the show notes, because the business where she’s wearing the hipster jeans with the g-string underneath it — it made me laugh. And, of course, that is something — fashion does change, your jeans go from boot leg to skinny without you noticing necessarily. I think it is a point when you’re writing a long-term project, I suppose.

Nick
Yes. It’s a particular challenge for those of us who are fashion-challenged anyway, because surely black trackie dacks never go out of fashion for the author.

Allison
Your pants have always been high.

Nick
The rest of the world — oh no.

Allison
Your dad, right?

Nick
I watched my dad’s pant height and I’m determined never to go there. Yeah, if I start to think that my belt is touching my ribs then really I need a lot of help.

Allison
We need to talk?

Nick
I have people around me who will stop that.

Allison
Just going back a few years how did you actually come to have your first novel published, can you remember?

Nick
I can. It was a long time ago, but not that long ago.  Well, I had a collection of short stories published 22 years ago — yeah, in 1992. That had sold 900 copies, mostly to my mother.

Allison
Hey, Mum. Thanks for that.

Nick
Yeah, but it got me an agent. It was short-listed for an award and it got me an agent and that sort of changed the situation I was in slightly, because it meant that I could connect more effectively with the industry. I think the industry has changed a bit now, you can connect with the industry worldwide electronically, but twenty years or so ago that really wasn’t the case.

Then in 1995 I took the pile of notes that I had been compiling for a few years and I wrote a novel. I entered it in the Vogel Competition for writers under 35, as I then was. It didn’t get short-listed by the judges, but Allen and Unwin read every entry anyway.

Allison
Right.

Nick
They read it and they held it back and held it back and held it back, thinking about whether they would sign it up or not. They signed up the winner and the signed up the runner up and they signed up the next one from the judges’ shortlist and they decided that they just couldn’t quite stretch to signing four books.

So, it didn’t get picked up in the Vogels, but my agent told me that Laura Patterson, who had just become an associate publisher at Transworld was at the start of putting together a new Australian fiction list. She would be at the Brisbane’s Writers’ Festival and coming to the young writers nighttime event that I was part of. My agent said, “Pick your best life’s work, get it in great shape, catch her attention, she’s the next one we’ll try with.”

Allison
Wow.

Nick
So I did.

Allison
No pressure.

Nick
I picked a piece that was designed to work live. I got so stressed about it that afternoon I had a migraine, so I had to medicate myself and lie down for several hours. Then I stopped vomiting, as I got up, in a fairly disheveled state, which only suited the story, I got up and I gave it everything. The next day Laura Patterson came up to me and said, “I hear you have a novel manuscript, I would like to read it.” That was Zigzag Street and she published it a year later.

Allison
Wow.

Nick
That is what it took to make that come about.

Allison
Wow. OK, so migraine, vomiting and giving it your best? There you go.

Nick
Yeah, yeah. What I’ve tried to do since then is cut out the migraine and cut out the vomiting and just focus on giving it my best.

Allison
You’re sort of known as Nick Earls, guy who writes funny books, do you sit down and set out to be funny? Is that possible?

Nick
It’s not easy. I think if you do sit down and set out to be that without things set up, pulling you there anyway, it’s probably pretty hard to do. It’s not something that I overtly try to do all the time — I’ve certainly done it with Analogue Men, but it’s the first time in more than a decade that I’ve really set out to write a kind of full on comedy.

I think the thing I need to — I can’t sit there and manufacture punch lines or even comic situations, but I think you just need to be vigilant for ideas with potential and lines that might work, and also create the environment that allows the comedy to come to you. Once you start to get to know the characters and what you’re going to put them through and start to imagine them talking to each other, if you’ve got it right you’ll start to come with great dialogue for them anyway. And it’s much better to kind of find that way in, I think, rather than to try to manufacture this and then bolt them together.

I actually enjoy that process more. When I realised this was going to be a comedy I thought, “I’m just going to give it enough time so that I come up with enough material so that I’m not sitting there writing the novel thinking here’s that chapter that’s not at all funny and you have to bung some funny stuff into,” because I’ve got stuff there anyway.

When I connected with the voice of the character, with Andrew and the way he was looking at things, I found plenty more as I wrote it and that’s how it goes. If you create the right environment that stuff just comes to you.

Some of the comic things that are in there are there because I accumulated them over years and planned them. Some of them I found as I was writing. I kept refining that through the draft. You get the chance to make it funnier if you want to.

For me, if I’m writing a comic novel there are kind of three different sorts of comedy I get to use. I get to use the wry observations made as the narrator. I have conversations between characters in which they can say things that crack me up and therefore will hopefully crack other people up. I started this with Zigzag Street, having no idea if I could make it work. I get to actually try slapstick on the page, and you can make slapstick work on the page.

The key, I think, is to do it unashamedly and not back off and make sure the stakes are high. That’s where, I think, a novelist is most different from a stand-up comic. If you’re writing a novel you get 200 pages or so to set up the scene and make the stakes enormous for the character so the pay off is way bigger than it would be if you saw that scene in isolation.

That’s kind of what goes on behind the scenes for me when I’m planning these scenes, I’m thinking, “Can I really get away with that?” “Can I really make that scene actually work?” The fear that I won’t make it work is what makes me work really hard to put it in the context in which I’ve made it as close to bulletproof as I can so that when people get there they’re with me, they’re with these characters and that scene with be funny.

Allison
Have you ever had a situation where you’ve written something that you thought was just hilarious and amazing and it’s gone to your editor and they’ve come back and gone, “It’s just really not working for us.”?

Nick
Yes, there will be times where they’ll say — it didn’t happen with this novel, I can tell you that — but, there have been times when they’ve said, “I didn’t find this particularly funny and neither did…” whoever.

Allison
Wow.

Nick
But, it’s good to have those questions asked of you because then you look at that bit and you think, “Was it supposed to be funny,” and sometimes you can write back and go, “It’s OK, that bit wasn’t supposed to be funny.” But, obviously it’s not doing its job if they thought it was supposed to be. But, very often you look at the thing and think, “OK, do I need that for the story? I want to get maximum value of this, can I edit that out? Or is it essential for the story?” “And if it’s essential to the story, what role does it play?” “Does it need to be a comic scene? If it is essential and it is a comic scene and it’s not working, what can I do to make it work better?” And usually the answer is I can increase the stakes.

Allison
Right.

Nick
If it’s mildly embarrassing now I can make it massively embarrassing by having more people there to see it or there are various things you can do — or by having the character investing far more in that moment and really needing it to go well. Then if it goes badly it’s much funnier.

I mean what that kind of comedy is about is about survivable disaster and about the reader being able to look at it and go, “I’m so glad that’s not me, but clearly it’s not going to kill him, he’s going to get through, and that’s fine. But, I’m so relieved that I’m not the one who urinated on that cat,” or whatever.

Allison
Whatever…

Nick
Or whatever.

Allison
Given that you’re writing for children, you’re writing for young adults and you’re writing for adults are there differences in the way that you go about doing those things? Or are you basically Nick Earls writing, you just happen to be writing for different audiences?

Nick
I think across those three age groups I think there are two versions of me. I think the version of me who writes for adults and the version who writes for young adults is doing essentially the same job, but working with central characters of different ages. Some stories really lend themselves to having a teenage central character. From my point of view when I’m writing the kind of thing that my publishers have marketed as a young adult novel I’m not writing a young adult novel, I’m writing a novel that has a teenage central character. If I get that right, if I get into the character’s head, then some teenagers now will be able to relate to it. Those, to me, as a writer, don’t feel very different. But, writing for children might well be different.

When I wrote the Word Hunters series the main characters in that are 12 years old, it’s written in the third person and most of my fiction is first person. It’s very narrative driven. It was a new experience for me writing for that age group. I thought I had a great idea and I had great details and a story that I really wanted to tell. It’s a massive time travel adventure series based on etymology.

Allison
Yeah, it’s fascinating. I love it.

Nick
The main characters discover a dictionary and off they go into the past. I love that idea. I love finding the details for it and working all that out. But, I knew that I didn’t have experience writing for children, so I said to the publisher early on, “I’m going to need good editorial backup here, I’m going to need you and whoever is the hands on editor with this to scrutinise it from the perspective of what works in knowing the 12 year olds and help get me back on track.” In fact the Word Hunters books had far more editorial suggestions than Analogue Men, despite being much smaller books. I’m still kind of working that out, but for me that was quite a different approach.

Eventually the difference there is those stories are very narrative driven. I still wanted to get the characters right, but I wanted to have lots of story and lots of action and I went about it in quite a different way to the way I’ve written my fiction for adults and teenagers.

Allison
Did you say you’re working on another children’s book at the moment? Did I make that up?

Nick
I am, yeah. I did say that, that’s right.

Allison
Are you finding that process, like now that you’ve done the three Word Hunters are you finding this new project — have you found yourself into that space a bit more? Like do you feel like you’ll need less editorial suggestion, or not?

Nick
I’ll find out soon. I don’t know. I suspect I’ll probably still need quite a bit. I think I’m still working some things out.

I think one of the things that Word Hunters taught me was not to over think that. When I started writing Word Hunters it was hard to put out of my mind the thought that I was doing something different and writing for an age group with whom I didn’t have really regular contact and that’s quite an obstacle. I think one of the things that you most need to do when you’re writing almost anything is when you’re actually doing the writing put the readers out of your mind, put everything out of your mind except doing justice to the story and the characters, and I forgot that for awhile with the first few thousand words of Word Hunters.

It was only when I got suggestions from my editor that all looked screaming obvious, and where the editor was trying to teach me the kind of ‘show, don’t tell’ lessons and I was thinking, “Oh my god, I learnt show, don’t tell last century, the idea that someone has to teach me that now is so embarrassing.” I thought, “What’s happened here is that I’ve freaked myself out about the idea of writing for a different age demographic and what I should remember is I can write a story. And I should apply those principles into everything, like I always do, and then get the editorial feedback to tweak it and get it right.”

Allison
Yeah.

Nick
So I’ve gone into this new one at least less daunted by the idea of writing for that demographic. And also in the meantime I’ve done enough Word Hunters events that I’ve done the kind of live Word Hunter show that Terry Whidborne, the illustrator, and I have put together for 12,000, 15,000 students. I’ve met quite a few of the kids who have read the books. I’ve realised that they’re human like me and I don’t have to think of them as a demographic quite as strictly as the publishing industry might have suggested.

Allison
Like you do?

Nick
But if I just try to give it my best shot we can then get it in the best shape it can be, and some of them will connect with it.

Allison
Just changing course slightly, I’m just interested in your thoughts on this idea of the author platform that has kind of developed and constructed in the last couple of years. Do you do a lot on social media? Do you have a conscious thought of, “Nick Earls must get out there to be seen,” or anything like that?

Nick
Yes, I do. My publisher had that conscious thought first about five years ago.

Allison
Right.

Nick
They said, “It’s time that you were on Twitter and Facebook,” and then the blogging started a couple of years after that.

I’m glad that I’m there now, and I have a lot of interactions that are really pretty rewarding. It is really useful to be in contact with people who might read the books to get a sense of how they think and how they operate. It’s also a good chance to discover new things. It’s got a lot to offer, but at the same time we’ve got to, as writers, I think, bear in mind two things, one is that it can be a big time suck and we’ve got to manage that, because if we’re going to actually put time into the writing as well we can’t spend all of our time playing on social media.

Allison
No.

Nick
The other is the emphasis that is being placed on author platforms and the importance of building a platform and all of that, and I wouldn’t at all say that it’s unimportant, but I think it’s sometimes become more important than the writing that apparently people went into it for in the first place. You will see all of these experts who might be experts, I don’t know, saying that you should be spending 20 percent of your time creating your product and 80 percent of your time on your platform.

Allison
Wow.

Nick
When you’re out there on social media you should spend 80 percent of the time just charming people and talking about your cats and 20 percent of your time actually letting them know about your product.

I actually blogged about that a couple of years ago, just to get people’s views on it. I think the way it works is that if you’re setting out as a writer now then if you can build a platform of people who will take an interest in you it can be good, but it’s an awful lot of work to do that.

Allison
Yeah.

Nick
If they’ve been getting something for nothing, if they’ve been getting you for nothing on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest and whatever else you do, then how many of those people are going to make the transition from having you for nothing for a year or two to then being prepared to pay for it.

Allison
Yes.

Nick
And some will, but I don’t think it’s a particularly powerful sales tool if it’s seen in that kind of cold light.

But, if you’ve got people who want to find you on social media because they love your books, then those people want to know about your new books, and that’s what people told me when I blogged about this. They said, “No, keep telling us that you’ve got a new book out. We follow because we want you to entertain us,” again, you’re being the court jester, “but, as well, we do want to know when you’ve got a new thing out. And we do want to know the story behind it.” And that’s what they get.

I think it’s really nice as a reader that a writer who blogs and does all of these other things can actually give you glimpses behind the process that went on behind some of the books that you might be really impressed with.

I think that’s kind of a nice thing to have, and it’s nice that those things are out there and are being archived and won’t be lost. There will be records of these things. But, I think, while it’s important to do that, and while it’s personally valuable to be there, and it’s a nice place to be, if what you want to do is make a living as a writer you’ve got to also make sure that you prioritise the writing that might earn you the money.

Allison
That’s so true.

Let’s finish up with your three top tips for aspiring authors, would that be one of them?

Nick
I think it would. One tip would be to read.

Allison
 []

Nick
Because I think that’s very important.

Really if everyone who set out to write a novel just went out today and bought a novel there would be lots more writers earning a living.

Allison
Yeah, so true.

Nick
Sometimes I think there’s more writers out there than readers.

Allison
Yeah.

Nick
I’m a writer because I started out loving reading and I loved what a book could do to my head and that hasn’t changed. I continue to want to create that effect in the heads of other people. I think reading is a very important thing to do.

Allison
Yep.

Nick
I think one other thing that is very important is to value small ideas when you have them and not lose them. In my case that means writing them down on scraps of paper, or if I don’t have a scrap of paper I will put them on my phone. I am in the 21st century, like everyone else.

Allison
Go you.

Nick
Yes. Yeah — yes.

So value small ideas when you have them.

Also a lot of people who are starting out with writing find it very hard to fit in the actual writing part.

Allison
Yes.

Nick
I think what we kind of need to do is recalibrate the way we value things. For me, a big part of writing is the thinking. The thinking is the writing as much as the typing part is.

Allison
Yes.

Nick
If you’re driving along and you’re at a red light — or if you’re on a bus or on a train, I should say when you’re not in charge of the vehicle — if you’re on a bus or on a train and heading somewhere and you’ve got ten minutes to think about the thing that you want to write, you’re not going to get to write it, but you might have some great ideas. So, think and record those thoughts and build the momentum for the story, build the ideas that might be part of your story so that when you can book time in your diary to write you’ve got lots of stuff there to write and you won’t just be staring at a blank magnolia coloured wall thinking, “I want to be a writer now, but I have no idea what to say.”

Value that thinking even as you are feeling frustrated that you aren’t getting blocks of writing time. Value the thinking, keep track of what you think, plan your story, book in the writing time eventually and make sure that when you get there you’ve got something to write.
That’s what I think.

Allison
Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today, Nick. It’s been fantastic talking to you. I will put the link to your blog in the show notes, because I think people should have a look at it. I think it’s a really, really good example of an author blog. I will also put a link through to Analogue Men, so people can have a look at that, which I have a copy here an I’m loving it.

Nick
Great.

Allison
Thank you so much for your time. I really, really appreciate it.

Nick
Good, thank you. It’s been a real pleasure to do it.

What are you writing at the moment?

Allison
Well, I’m actually just finishing book three of my first children’s series, which is coming out with Hachette.

Nick
Great.

Allison
The first book is in October of this year. I’m proofreading Book 1, I’m editing Book 2, and I’m writing Book 3.

Nick
That is impressive.

Allison
And I’m talking to you.

Nick
That’s the way to do it.

Allison
I’m talking to you, which is even more fun. Everybody knows that talking about writing is more interesting than actually doing the writing, right?

Nick
Yes.

Allison
All right, thanks a lot, Nick.


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