You should write a book about it

A dinner party at Mario's c 1946.

I’ve been at dinner parties when someone is regaling others with their ‘war stories’ and another guest interjects – “you should write a book about it!” With three or four books under my belt, I’d say to myself – and sometimes to the interjector – “Yeah, write a bloody book about it, it’s just like turning a tap on and out flow the words!” As any writer knows it’s not as easy as that. So what do budding authors need to do to ensure they write well enough to get something published or just for the personal satisfaction of knowing their writing actually “makes a statement?”

If you want to write you MUST read. This may sound like a statement of the obvious but it’s fundamental.  Prospective writers need to read as much and as widely as they can. Reading should be eclectic. I love biography and I also read history, crime, sport, novels and even some technical material. Newspapers, magazines, business reports, theatre programs, and restaurant menus, I read. I never read the racing guide but if nothing else were available, I’d read the back of a tram ticket. Get my drift? 

What to read

Reading is a discipline – but should never be an onerous chore. I try to set aside at least one hour every day to sit and read. I know this sharpens my eye to the writing techniques of others and stimulates creativity. More importantly, reading energises and refreshes me.  I have hundreds of books collected over many years – and hundreds more have been ‘culled’ as we’ve moved homes.  I love to reread parts of my all time favourites. George Orwell’s, Animal Farm, Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny and Brenda Niall’s Mannix will often come out of the bookcase allowing me to quietly revisit memorable passages again and again.    

It helps that reading is in my blood. I hope it’s in yours. My father possessed an insatiable reading appetite – as do my three siblings – and my Irish born, minimally educated, grandfather read prolifically throughout his long life. I think I understand how he felt when at 88 his eyesight failed to the point where he could no longer read and he lamented to my mother – “It’s a long day, Vera”.

Take heed of the Nike marketing statement. “Just do it”.  Make a start. Decide on your topic and as the Irish comedian Hal Roach would say – “write it down”.  Learn to express yourself in your written words. Try to use simple words that your readers are likely to understand. Verbosity is a writer’s worst enemy. Keep your sentences short.  Less is more. And try to minimise the use the clichés or as one writer has put it, avoid clichés like the plague!

Learn how to research, utilise social media platforms, join writers groups, and take a creative writing course or two.  All of this will help you to clarify your thinking, set your goals and find joy in what you write.

Just do it.  Write it down!

Des Tobin