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How I write

‘Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.’ So said the late, great Mark Twain and I’m trying to take his advice but it’s not easy. All writers know that we should sit at our desks and get down x thousand words per day, come what may, but knowing something makes sense and actually doing it is where the problems start, right? Like we all know asparagus is better for us than Haribo but it doesn’t stop us from reaching for just one more Tangfastic....

The writing process for me is convoluted to say the least. Quite apart from anything else, I work full time as a teacher in a tough inner London secondary school. After a day in front of anything up to 130 stroppy, hormonal, disaffected teenagers, plus a few hours planning and marking, a meeting or two, and a detention for the worst miscreants, spending the evening writing gripping and inspirational stories is the last thing I feel like doing. But do it I must, otherwise nothing would ever be achieved and I wouldn’t be a writer, I’d just be an over-worked, underpaid public servant.

Relentless self-discipline has enabled me to publish three books in just over a year - Under an Amber Sky and Garden of Stars being the first two with the third, a psychological thriller called The Missing Twin due out in August under the author name Alex Day. Now the school summer holidays have just begun and over the next six weeks I hope to get a good way through two new manuscripts. I’m brushing off a school year’s worth of exhaustion in the hope that, if I ignore it, it will go away.

The fact that I am the unlikely possessor of three children of my own puts yet another spanner in the works. (Sorry kids.) Every now and again I feel compelled to show some interest in my progeny and sometimes even to spend time with them, doing what they want to do. But wherever I go, my writing comes too. I can, and have, written whilst waiting for a bus, for a theatre show to begin or for an orthodontist’s appointment. I’ve written at magic parties, trampolining parties and ice-skating parties. (Not whilst skating. That would be silly.) I’m currently writing in my (minuscule) garden whilst builders attach a new section to the bathroom waste pipe running down the wall beside me. This is possibly going to turn out to be unwise place to sit right at this moment. But I can’t stop or the schedule will fall apart! So on that note I’ll leave you with some wise words about the writing process. I’d like to say I wrote them myself but I didn’t so it would be a lie.

Instead, Brian Clark, thank you for laying out the most accurate ’10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer’ that I’ve ever come across and that, in my writing life, I live by:

1. Write.

2. Write more.

3. Write even more.

4. Write even more than that.

5. Write when you don’t want to.

6. Write when you do.

7. Write when you have something to say.

8. Write when you don’t.

9. Write every day.

10. Keep writing.

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