A recent visitor to the Curtis Brown Creative six-month creative-writing course, legendary author and journalist Tony Parsons came in to speak at length to our students on the craft of writing. As someone who’s written for publications as diverse as the NME and The Daily Telegraph, and has followed commercial and critical success for bestselling novels Man and Boy and Catching the Sun with the announcement – last month – he is to move into crime fiction, Tony’s a man who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to this subject. Here’s his 10-point plan to becoming a successful writer.
(1) Every writer has three tools: Imagination (the world as you dream it); Experience (the world as you’ve felt it); and Research (the world as others have known it). Don’t be afraid to use them.
(2) Long before you pitch to agents/publishers, you need to pitch to yourself. Boil your novel to an essential, one-line ‘North Star’ idea that’s the heart of your book, and never lose sight of it.
(3) Writing a book’s a marathon and you have to find a pace you’re capable of keeping. I write 1,000 words a day – to which I devote three to four hours.
(4) Read books in the same genre as you’re writing. Get to know the competition. As well as writing 1,000 words a day, aim to read 50 pages a day.
(5) If you spot a bandwagon, you’ve missed it. You have to create the bandwagon; figure out what’s next.
(6) You have to believe in what you’re doing and be totally sincere about it. That’s a prerequisite for success.
(7) I believe in careful planning – mapping the novel out. I always write a synopsis of a story before I start writing it.
(8) Why did I choose to write Man and Boy as a novel rather than a memoir? Fiction sets you free and liberates your story. It’s the no-man’s land between fantasy and reality.
(9) You have to learn to manage disappointment. You can’t be thick-skinned because, if you are, you can’t write. But you have to expect setbacks, and try to have a sense of humour about them. Above all, you have to be optimistic and have hope.
(10) Get an agent.
As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.