The most common questions strangers ask after "And what do YOU do...?" Plus advice for young people, and anyone else starting to write...
How did you get into writing?
How do I get into writing?
Where do your ideas come from?
Do you self-publish / crowdfund your writing? Everyone does now, don’t they?
No, I don’t and no, they don’t. To crowdfund or self-publish well, you need marketing experience, self-belief and contacts. Self-publishing and crowdfunding are great for types of writing which are easier to sell directly to an audience than through a traditional publisher; like poetry, family history, essay collections, specialist non-fiction, and some genres of fiction which not many agents handle. They appeal to people who want more control over their work, including aspects of marketing which are usually decided by a publisher, like where it’s sold and what goes on the cover. They aren’t so great if you want to write more than one book; or for novels, unless you’ve got a large audience as an expert in something and your novel will appeal to that audience.
I want to self-publish / crowdfund my book, can you help me?
When can I call myself a writer?
What kinds of stories do you like reading and watching?
How do you know when something you’re writing is really finished?
What else are you good at doing?
What jobs have you had outside writing or the media?
Did you write the piece about Dyspraxia for the Guardian?
Really though, how do I get into writing?
But writing is literally all I can do; how do I survive?
Many writers get questions about writing from people who want to write. Then there are those who have to write, and it’s heartbreaking because I’m one of those people too and I want to offer quick and easy solutions, but I can’t. Without being Royal, taking your clothes off or breaking the law, there are basically four ways to manage while you’re building up experience: 1) Support from the Arts Council, often through regional arts organisations, 2) The support of family (which matters emotionally, not just financially…), 3) Support from private donors who fund work that they enjoy and enjoy yours, and 4) A partner’s salary. I’ve variously had all of these, except the last one, which has never sat right with me but I judge no-one else if it works for them, which it does for plenty…