Nicola Vincent-Abnett

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

Wednesday 7 May 2014

If a Writer Needs One Rule for a Successful Career...

... it might be this!

Seriously guys, I’m going to spill the beans.

You all know the husband. Many of you are much bigger fans of his than you are of mine, at least when it comes to the work. I realise he’s not very consistent when it comes to blogging. I like to think that I’ve got that little corner of our world covered. That’s about it, though.

A week or so ago I was asked to do a little job... a very lovely little job. It was only about fifteen hundred words long, but it really appealed to me. It took a little prep and a bit of research, and there was some artistic endeavour attached, which suited me very well. Nevertheless, it took several days for me to actually get my arse in a chair and get on with the work.

It’s rare that I can work cold out of the blocks. It happens occasionally, but not often. I need thinking time and a breathing space. I need to brace myself, and/or build my confidence. I need to adjust my thinking to each new piece of work. That’s how it works for me.

I was happy with the end results and so was the client, and it was very nice to be asked when so often it’s a matter of doing the asking, working up a pitch and presenting it, and then waiting for a response. It’s a merry-go-round.

The husband, Dan Abnett, at his desk among his notebooks
photograph by James K Barnett
Yesterday, the husband got an e-mail asking him to do something. We had a chat about it. His schedule is, as always, packed... And I do mean packed! We worked out the practicalities. Twenty minutes later he made a call to the client to check the parameters of the job. It was a new piece of work, totally out of left field, and it was needed fast.

There are times when the husband will turn down a piece of work, but those times are rare. His philosophy is that if he turns down a piece of work today he’ll be passed over for a piece of work tomorrow. That philosophy has stood him in good stead. The husband has worked every day for fifteen years. He has been a New York Times bestselling author on seven occasions in four categories. He has been described as the Swiss army knife of novelists. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds good.

The piece of work the husband was offered yesterday amounted to about ten thousand words, but it also opened a door on a very exciting new prospect. Ten thousand more words this month with so much to do already is a lot.

The husband finished his phone call and hesitated for a moment. 

I know that look.

I checked my watch. It was about 4-30. We had eaten lunch at our desks. In fact, lunch had been smoothies, so we hadn’t eaten, not really. We’d already worked eight straight hours.

“Sod it,” he said. “I’ll just do it now.”

The husband literally sat down at his desk, opened a file, and began writing.

“I’ll make sandwiches,” I said.

I made a lot of sandwiches.

He wrote for the next nine hours. He got up several times to poke about in his book shelves looking for reference, and to go for a pee. We shared a bottle of wine. He drank several cups of tea.

Eventually, after a seventeen hour working day, we fell into bed. The husband had completed a very sizeable chunk of the job.

What’s more, he had clearly enjoyed himself.

So here’s one simple rule for being a successful writer: Do the work that’s available when it’s asked of you.

Don’t prevaricate. Don’t second guess. Don’t waste time and energy working yourself into a froth.

The husband is at an advantage of course; his writing muscles are extremely well-honed. He’s been doing this a long time, and he does it well. Part of the reason for that is he has always worked like this. If there is a job to be done, the husband sits in his chair and he writes.

Long may that continue.


  1. You are right. Dan is a great writer, and not a robot.
    But i can't agree with 'he’s not very consistent when it comes to blogging', - because he hasn't wrote a sentence in his blogspot, since JUNE 18, 2013.

    And due to the fact that he hasn't done video-interviews with Adele last year, we could only guess what he is writing and what to await in the near-so-distant future

  2. sounds like he has a great support network at the office as well:)

  3. How did that saying go? I think it was something like; behind every great man is a great someone?

    1. I do make a pretty spectacular sandwich, even if I do say so myself.

    2. 'behind every great man is a great someone' - nope, great woman =)