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Most writers are well aware that in reality writing is a serious job. Some writers have a sense of dread and trepidation when they start a new manuscript, feeling as if they are jumping into a tub of cold water. Then there are those writers with the opposite point of view. For them starting to write something new is more like diving into a hot bath of suds, before surfacing to sip champagne, followed by a nice hot bevy. I think I have yet to feel either of those experiences.

I must say that I do understand how some authors can feel crippled by self-expectation. But regardless of that, writing is and should be a joy. And to be honest, I will say that I do take any writing seriously. However, I will also admit that I can’t, no matter how I try, fully take the writing world just as seriously. And, neither should you.

Apparently, Byron was known to have hilariously punctured Wordsworth’s pomposity by calling him Turdsworth. I suppose it doesn’t harm, if we want to be tongue-in-cheek and laugh at the literati. After all, isn’t laughter great for our mental health?

I think it was Oscar Wilde who recognised the paradox when he said, ‘Some things are just too important to be taken seriously.’ And that is also true. Isn’t it better for people not to know if you’re being serious or not? Again, to quote the wildly eccentric Wilde, he said, ‘I usually say what I really think. A great mistake nowadays. As it makes one so liable to be misunderstood.’ If it was a mistake in his day then perhaps it’s also a mistake in ours? Hey Ho, that’s life.

Anyway, you might not believe it but writing is the cheapest of all the art forms. Yes, I know that writers don’t have to buy expensive instruments or other unique tools, but still, there are hidden costs for us. Okay I know we have to have a computer and printer, but hang on don’t most of us have these in our homes already? Anyway when it comes to costs, we writers do have costs for the simple things. Such as literary magazine subscription fees, competition entrance fees, and those tickets to attend events where writers read (some being as wooden as the platform they are standing on). Oh, and don’t forget the cost of book launches. Not our own. No others launches. It’s not just the cost of attending, but of getting there, the time and effort needed in attending, and don’t forget we have to look our best. No turning up in our gardening clothes, eh!!

There are times at these events where a writer can feel as if they are more a part of some Ladies/Gentlemen’s Group who Launch (not lunch). To be honest I often find myself avoiding the hardback launches in preference for the cheaper soft back ones. Don’t get me wrong, I love books as much as any bibliophile. After all, they do come in handy as fly swatters in the summer. But, just how many bookshelves can any writer afford or any room tolerate?

If we writers are truly open about things then we have to admit that it is very hard to launch a book with zero cash. In the past, I’ve seen book launches that have had themed merchandise, cakes, and other unusual accoutrements. Perhaps writers should compete with a live sex show for the launch of their next collection of short stories. Mind you, if you have a non-existent budget, then I think you might be asking your friends to participate. Mmm… Perhaps they won’t object if you ply them with wine first. I’m kidding, of course.

These problems are not just limited to writers. No. It appears that playwrights have similar problems. Apparently, when it comes to the theatre they are supposed to ‘remain visible’, but ticket prices for plays can be extortionate. And, the after party can cost you even more. This is mainly due to the copious amounts of alcohol needed for someone to lie about how wonderful the show was.

For some emerging writers, there can be another source of expense - the creative writing course or class. There is funding available. But, unfortunately, we find that some writers have to pay for a class on how to fill out an Arts Council funding form. Now how ridiculous is that? It’s de-funding yourself in order to fund yourself!

Another thing that has sprung up recently, is how many of the more successful writers have what they term ‘writing sheds’. Wow, don’t they know the rest of us lowlier writers actually live in sheds?

Of course, one of the main things writers must suffer or at the very least get used to is living with is rejection. I sometimes think that many writers could have rewritten something like ‘Poor Fellow My Country’ by Xavier Herbert during the time they wasted and waited for a result from literary agents and/or publishers. Submitting a manuscript is as time-consuming as say writing a job application.  Sometimes, you feel as if you should just throw your manuscripts into one of those soul-sucking black holes up there in the universe.

One of the worst things about submitting to an agency is that big agencies ask you to look through their agents to find a good match for your work. This means you also have to scroll through rambling lists of books they want you to emulate. I have known an agency request ‘an elevator pitch’ which looked as if they were expecting the writer was writing a Hollywood movie. If you take into account that most of the big agencies and publishers do have marketing departments the size of a large city, then I ask, why aren’t they taking care of this?

Another obscure thing is that many agencies appear to expect a different word counts when it comes to the length of the synopsis. Is it that they deliberately enjoy torturing writers. And, of course, we come to their ridiculous response of, ‘This is not quite right for our list.’ Err, sorry but what list is that exactly? The list in your dreams that only has A-list celebrities on it? You know, the only people you really want to represent?

I recall an author friend who was asked by a publisher to read their ‘commissioning instructions’, which was long and tedious, about the under-represented writers they were hoping to support. Now at that time, as a woman, she was a perfect candidate for them. Mind you, we were both surprised to discover that she, being from a global minority (i.e. people of ginger), was not to be included. And yes, I am being facetious here. Just in case you’re wondering.

Recently a publisher told another author friend, ‘We might be putting our next submission call out sometime in 2024. But, it’s not decided as yet. However, in the meantime, please feel free to buy any of our books.’ His comment to me was, ‘If had to buy a book for every prospective publisher I approached then I would need somewhere the size of the British Library to house them all’. Ha ha, ha!

In truth, newbie writers must be aware that the majority of literary giants I’ve come across have usually been head-hunted by agents, and have then been retained by the same publisher for some years. Perhaps that’s why many have lived to the ripe age of ninety, while the rest of us are racked with psychic ailments.

When it comes to publishing I must admit to loving small presses. Mainly because they have always been supportive of the authors I work with. Maybe it's because they are competing with the big guys so are more sensitive to their writers. And don’t forget, that for any success in literature, marketing is everything. Over the years, if there is one thing I have learnt it is that the huge reputations of feted writers are as fictional as the fiction they write. Remember, some popular writers never win anything at all and don’t make massive sales. They just keep producing book after book. Hence keeping their name in the limelight.

The only books that sell themselves are Great ones. The late Charles Bukowski once told an interviewer, ‘Insult me a little bit. Pour some salt on me. Make me dangerous. Help me sell my books.’ You see, Bukowski, wanting to generate some drama had, with the prior agreement of his wife, staged an interview. During it, he kicked her off the sofa. Now, I would never advocate violence, but it did have the desired effect he wanted, and it was certainly a more colourful approach than the more diplomatic one of modern day writers.

Mind you, occasional controversy does still happen.

In 2021, Jeanette Winterson decided to stage a protest by publicly burning some of her books. This was against ‘the cosy little domestic blurbs’ her publisher, Penguin, had included on her book jackets. It proved to be a very clever publicity stunt, helping to increase sales of the books. But, more importantly, it was a timely criticism of the blandness of literature.

What amused many of the authors I worked with was that it also highlighted the freedom of them being with an Indie press.  Perhaps it amused them because in some cases, although not all, they get unlike Jeanette, to write their own book blurbs.

And that’s it. My rummaging thoughts on the writing world for 2023. Whether 2024 will change this viewpoint is anyone’s guess, including my own. Still, I continue to enjoy what I do and will persevere with the ups and downs of this crazy writing world of ours.

If you need help with any aspect of your writing or would like to chat with a mentor, please check out the Mentoring Writers website. Or email them at for details on how they can assist you in your writing journey.

Happy 2024 Writing folks

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