Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Starting Off

I think ever since I first held a book in my hand I wanted to produce one of my own. I didn’t know what kind of book it should be – just that it should be a book. I first had a go when I was around 10 years old. I wrote my version of Tarka the Otter and made a couple of my pals read it. The bribe as I remember was half a crunchie between them and my best marble. Mercifully I have forgotten their reactions and the actual story is somewhere in the cemetery of lost jotters.

When I was a teenager there were lots of movies about people falling in love and on the brink of death. All of these people were unfeasibly attractive and only days after the wedding ceremony one of the lovebirds would be run over and killed/ fall off a cliff and killed/ or suffer a dread disease and die a horrible but cinematically attractive death. This got me thinking. So aged 14 I wrote two chapters of a novel where somebody was diagnosed with leukaemia, fought it bravely, fell in love and while out walking with their lover fell off a cliff. And died. How pale and beautiful they would be in their death scene…

And then there were the early poems where everybody was in love or dying. Sometimes they managed both simultaneously. Having very little experience of the love side of things (for very little read none whatsoever) these poems were usually based on the lyrics of whatever pop group I was into at the time (mainly Earth, Wind and Fire). I console myself at the thought of my lack of originality by the idea that we learn best by imitating others. Perhaps my career might have had a better start if I had chosen to copy somebody like Bob Dylan or Lennon and McCartney.

Time, wearing great big hobnail boots and taking gigantic strides, moved on and I found myself in my early thirties remembering my early passion for the written word. “When I retire…” became a mantra for me, as in when I retire I’ll write a novel. Daydreaming was a favourite past time of mine around this time. Oh the novels and poems I penned in my head. And how publishers would fall over themselves for my books. When I retired. Then it occurred to me that I was wishing my life away. If I wanted to do it, I should just do it. See me and Nike? Where do you think they got their logo? I should sue someone.

Anyway, I did. I got on with it. The novels, of course. Litigation is such hard work and anyway, who would have believed me?

Then I spotted a poster for Ayr Writers’ Club and armed with the total output of 10,000 words of a novel and half a dozen poems I joined the club in 1996. That first night I was terrified. I expected everybody to be way too intelligent for me, so erudite that they’d have huge foreheads and they’d all be wearing cravats or bow ties. Even the women.

How refreshing it was to realise that they were all just ordinary folks like me, with the same artistic insecurities but armed with a world of experience that they were only too happy to share. Oh and I’ll always remember the time I met my first honesttogod published writer. I swear I was drooling.

So, I attended courses, workshops, read how to books, read lots of novels and poems – basically studied and learned as much as I possibly could about the craft of writing – a process that I hope never ends.

I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of the best pieces of advice I have received/ read over the years with you.

- Take yourself seriously as a writer, if you don’t no-one else will – Catherine Czerkawska.

- Read a lot, write a lot – Stephen King.

- Don’t give up your job and take a crap job thinking that you’ll have more time and energy to write, cos you’ll just end up skint and terminally worried about your finances – Sally Evans.

- Establish a regular work pattern and space – and stick to it – Hugh C Rae (Jessica Stirling).

- Just do it – Michael Nike Malone.


  1. Great blog (and thanks for the link, I'll reciprocate when I get my head together! )
    Serious displacement activity is right though. But fun all the same...

  2. Thanks for the comment. The agent thing is a real bummer. Take some time out and be kind to yourself and then you'll come back out fighting!

  3. Oooh goodie, another blog to add to my 'Things To Do Before Opening My WIP'!

    Looking forward to reading your posts, Michael.

    Janice J

  4. I hope you enjoy the distraction, Janice.