Friday 18 January 2019

What Makes a Writer? Busting Myths About Authors ( or not)

Recently Piers Torday, winner of the Guardian Prize for Children's Fiction, made a shock confession on twitter.

He Doesn't Have A Note Book Obsession.

Or even a notebook.

What?? Piers Torday, writer extraordinaire?

What other well-established  myths about writers just aren't true?  Myth by myth, we shall discover the truth through the power of Twitter. I asked fellow writers a series of questions and received nearly a thousand responses - quite astonishing really and proof that number two is beyond question despite the only 71% who owned up.

1. All writers are stationary addicts:

 81% said 'gimme all the notebooks' but very many of that 81% said that they also use technology, such as their phone, to take notes. I fall into that category. I'd love to be a tidy writer who starts a new notebook for every new book but basically, I scrawl notes in one giant notebook but  I use Siri a lot  - especially when I'm driving - I might accidentally write a novel one day called "Hey Siri, take a note..."

Kathryn Evans and her book of scrawl.

2. Born procrastinators, writers spend 90% of their day on social media:

Only 71% of writers confessed to being procrastinators with the remaining 29% split between those who were pretty disciplined and those who had to be disciplined because writing pays the rent.

The figures say one thing but the evidence says another. I genuinely thought I'd blogged about this already but it turns out, I started two posts on the subject and never finished them because I got distracted...YOU SEE, this is evidence based science happening RIGHT here. Also some actual tips to stop procrastinating:

1. Writing a novel means WRITING a novel. Lower your sights,  it's not going to be brilliant first draft. But it's not going to be anything if it's no draft at all.
Get it writ then get it right.
Said someone way cleverer than me.

2. Use an app to help you focus - like Forest.

It costs 1.99 but you can find free versions. You plant a tree and as long as you're working, it'll grow. If you switch off the app you will kill the tree and then you'll be an:
who hasn't got any work done.

3. Writers are social hermits whose greatest desire is to have a writing shed:

Image result for writing shed

56% of respondents needed peace to write with 19% wanting their own writing shed. I was surprised at how low that number was  and at the 44% who could write anywhere with 11% actually preferring to be out. I should have asked if they were going to coffee shops...
But look, the truth is,  we can't all have our own writing shed. You write where you can and when you can - but nothing can stop you dreaming so have a little read of this lovely Book Trust post . After you've done your work.

4. It is impossible to write without caffeine:

MYTH BUSTED 44% said they didn't need coffee to power their work and of the remaining 56%, 24% were tea drinkers.

I can't even function without tea though so who these weird people are, I've no idea.

Never far from a cuppa

5. Bad grammar makes us shudder.

This was true for 66% - of the remaining 32%, half pleaded a seventies state school education  which left a generation of adults unable to position an apostrophe, including me. Fortunately, Philip Ardagh  is like a Facebook Grammar Vigilante. A combination of humilation and practical advice led me to a copy of Strunk and Whites Elements of Style sorted me out. I still add in random apostrophe's ( ;) ) just to annoy him but at least I sort of know what I'm doing now.

jacket, The Elements of Style

6.Writers block is real

56% of people agreed with this. I'm not sure I do but I do get stuck. A lot. I walk it off. Take the thoughts out and walk and walk until you've resolved your plot issue or until you've got a scene that will start your novel. Sometimes it take a long time. That's not writers block, that's process. Try and trust it.
Thinking is work for us, it's not all about words on the page.


Turns out writers are a mixed bunch, so do whatever works for you. We're all different,  a bit like people really. Imagine.

 Kathryn Evans is the award winning author of More of Me. Her new book, Beauty Sleep, is out in April 2019.  Kathryn loves faffing about on social media: find her  on Facebook and Instagram @kathrynevansauthor and tweeting @KathrynEvansInk.  

1 comment :

  1. I still read The Elements of Style now and again! I'm not a stationery addict but I do like notebooks with perfect bound spines that can be lined up on a shelf. I love my writing shed, even though full to the rafters with excess rubbish from the house. And it's got to be an Americano, black, no sugar. Tea is for stomachaches. Thanks for the smiles!


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