Written by John Boyne on the June 23rd,2020
This year marks 20 years since I started publishing novels & 27 years since I started publishing short stories. A long time!
So I wrote 10 TIPS TO ACHIEVE LONGEVITY AS A WRITER which might be helpful to some. These are the things that have helped me achieve my goals in life.
1. Be gracious & grateful to all those people whose daily activities help to sell your books: booksellers, staff at your publishing house & literary agency, book bloggers, festival volunteers, media folk. They love books as much as you do & you’re lucky to have them on side.
2. Other writers’ successes don’t reflect on you in any way. There’ll always be hugely popular books you think are no good; it doesn’t matter. You couldn’t write those books & their authors couldn’t write yours. Don’t be envious when looking up or smug when looking down.
3. Don’t blurb every book that comes your way & don’t become part of a collective blurbing each other’s books. Readers see through it. Save your praise for something you feel really passionately about, regardless of whether it’s a bestselling author or a debut.
4. Writers publish. You can live off the praise of a novel or a story collection for years if you want, but if you’re not publishing the next book, & the book after, then you’re passing up the great opportunity that has been given to you & that others long for.
5. Read as widely as possible. Know what your peers are writing. Read across genres. Read literary novels, popular fiction, crime. Read every debut you can. If you’re a man, read women. If you’re a woman, read men. Read across continents & colours. Read in translation.
6. When attending literary festivals, do anything that’s asked of you (within reason!) A lot of money has been spent bringing you there, accommodating you, publicising your events & building your readership. Do your job professionally & you’ll get invited back.
7. Don’t criticise other writers publicly; contact them privately. You don’t need the world to see how noble you are. Any writer with something to say can land in controversy. Piling-in makes it look like you want attention by association. Remember: it might be you next time.
8. Take your work seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. Unless you have a Nobel Prize sitting on the shelf, you’re just one of many, many writers on the planet, hoping for a readership. No one knows which of us, if any, will still being read in 200 years.
9. Social media is a curse but it can also bring readers & writers together. Some will use it to criticise, to stalk, to harass, to work off their anger or frustration. Never engage. Mute all rudeness. Never let an envious stranger ruin your day in 280 characters.
10. Writing is a bit like exercise. You need to do a little bit every day to keep the work flowing & your mind busy. But sometimes, the words aren’t coming & you need to lie on the sofa watching movies & eating chocolate. That’s ok. Just don’t do it two days running.