Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Stop Whining and Write a Better Book

It’s not that I’m not sympathetic. I haven’t had much luck with my writing so far either, but maybe it’s because I haven’t tried hard enough. 

I love writers, and I know several of them. I know one or two who make a tidy living out of the words they put on paper, I’m married to one of them, for goodness sake, and I know lots of amateur writers. Too many of them are wannabes. 
Don’t call yourself an aspiring writer; ‘aspiring’ means ‘directing one’s hopes towards’. There’s no point directing anything at writing, except for a lot of time and effort because nothing else will get it done. Be a writer, and when you’ve written the best book or short story or poem that you are capable of writing, you’d better become a really good marketer or PR person.
That’s what I’m working on, right now: finding a way to get the work out there to the audience. 
There is no point learning to do this bit of the job until you’ve done the other bit. Yes, I’ve got this blog, and yes I’ve got Twitter, and yes, I do advertise them and try to get people to take an interest, and yes, once in a while Susan Hill or Ian Rankin or Sarah Pinborough will talk to me over the waves, and that’s often fun.
My point is this, what are you trying to do when you write a blog or spend every spare minute on Twitter when you haven’t finished that book yet? 
I wrote “Naming Names” almost three years ago. The first couple of chapters were on Authonomy for a while, where I worked pretty hard to get it noticed, and it received some very good attention, and some not so good. I persuaded some of my writer friends to read it and listened to their feedback. I sent it out to agents, although, I realise now that I didn’t necessarily choose them carefully enough, and, finally, I entered it for a writing competition. Only when I was shortlisted for the Mslexia prize did I think about beginning a web presence for myself, because, do you know what? I was busy writing!
I’m still busy writing, and if you really mean it, if you aspire to be published, and you've got something new or interesting or important to say, or even a new, interesting, important way to say something, then you should be writing too.


  1. Absolutely! One of my regular complaints on the MA was about students who would wax lyrical about query letters and synopses, and how hard it was to get published, but had never finished a novel. Out of a dozen students, only three have completed one now. Practice does make perfect, well, better anyway. Writing makes you a writer, not publication.

    1. It's funny how much agreement I've had for this post, which is currently being retweeted by a couple of published authors. I just thought I was being a bit snarky.

  2. Heh, I had a writer website before I finished my first novel, but then I'm a web developer by trade and have had a website of one kind or another since about 1999.

    The most useful thing you can do online is find other like-minded, dedicated writers who will cheer one another on through the long slog of actually completing a novel. I belong to Forward Motion (, where a bunch of us post our weekly writing goals and report on our progress. It doesn't take a lot of time, and it really focuses the mind!

  3. in that case, I'm still an 'aspiring writer' (but this is one of those instances where I'm happy to be called a wannabe by someone, anyone) because university studies keep me busy enough that usually only thing I have to direct at my non-uni writing (other than the odd note here and there in my many notebooks) is the hope that I won't have so much uni work to do in the holidays (that's right, in the holidays away from uni) that I can get some non-uni related writing done ... roll on my days in unemployment!

    but that said, the only thing you'll hear be complain about is not having the time to do my writing (at present). I ain't even going to think about synopses, letters, publishing, or anything like that until I have at least half a dozen short stories under my belt. only then would I consider writing a novel, let alone submissions for one. but I do plan to have submitted some short stories by then

    although I do have plans to write novels, and have put some work into the ideas so far, it won't be until after much more writing and research. I'm just being realistic about my means at present. but I'm sure looking forward to having the time :D!

  4. And on that note, it's time for me to get off t'Interweb and back to my latest short story. ;-)

  5. See I sort of am an Aspiring writer, as I keep starting projects but not finishing. Sadly my problem is my own lack of confidence that leads me to look at my writing rather more critically that readers seem to (certainly stuff I've tested on people seems to go down well). Which leads to the inevitable "This isn't good enough so why bother finishing..."

    However I am trying an experiment currently.

    I'm ignoring the little voice, and so far have reached just of 16K words in just over 3 weeks.

    Onwards and Upwards!

  6. I didn't get over 'aspiring' until I stopped pretending I was going to write fiction for a living. I'd rather make my living as an essayist than pretend to be a novelist, any day of the week...