The first book I bought as soon as I moved to my new house was selected one evening in February at my local Daunt Books. I remember killing time, shelf to shelf, even though killing time isn't accurate. I always go into bookshops with this idea that I've got ten minutes to kill so I may as well, then I always come out with some loot. That isn't really killing time then, is it? Still, when I scroll through my online banking I often tell myself that Hatchard's, all the Daunts, Slightly Foxed, Sandoe and Persephone have me to thank for staying in business.
What was I saying...? Right, one bitterly cold night in February, yadda yadda. They're my very favourite type of nights. So I'm in Daunt Chelsea and I find myself in that corner they call REFERENCE. Among the dictionaries and grammar books and Reading Like A Writer (why, oh why is it always sitting in REFERENCE?), I found Write. It is split into four sections and can be described as a composite book on the art and tribulations of writing.
The fundamentals of fiction set out how to write according to Andrew Miller, Kate Mosse, Meg Rosoff and others. How I wrote tells us a little bit about how certain authors managed to get their masterpieces across to the finishing line. Susan Hill, AS Byatt, Iain Banks, Margaret Drabble and others contributed to this section. A few final tips are provided by three other authors, one of them none other than Little-Miss-Wins- Every-Book-Prize-There-Is-To-Win Hilary Mantel.
But! But! But! But! I have to tell you that all of the above is gripping enough, except the very best section of the book is My Rules, in which several other authors tell us how to do it. My dear reader, in many places this part is the most revealing and the most hilarious of all. I'm now going to open the book and pick some random sentences for you. Then after you've read this, go and buy your own copy. To be read in a hot bath, with chuckles.
Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide. (Roddy Doyle)
Read Keats's Letters. (Helen Dunmore)
Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer's a good idea. (Richard Ford)
Laugh at your own jokes. (Neil Gaiman)
Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious. (PD James)
Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless! (Joyce Carol Oates)
Stay lucky. (Ian Rankin)
Stay in your mental pyjamas all day (Colm Toibin)
Trust your creativity! (Jeannette Winterson)