Home Books Teach Me To Write #1: How To Be A Writer by Stewart Ferris

Teach Me To Write #1: How To Be A Writer by Stewart Ferris

by James
how to be a writer book by stewart ferris

I’ve lost my library book, which means I must renew it every 4 weeks for the rest of my life or until an apocalypse or cataclysmic event wipes the record. I’m hopeful, though. It can’t have melted into the universe—It’s GOT to be somewhere!

Daddy pig late library book

Daddy Pig handing in his 10-year late book like a BAD-ASS!

So what was this elusive library book? Well, dear reader, it’s simply called ‘How to be a Writer: Secrets From the Inside’. The title gives away the content. It does what it says on this tin, and it’s rather bloody good. 
The author, Stewart Ferris, is currently studying for a PhD in creative writing and has already produced a bunch of books (40 to be precise, according to his website) and he’s written those between walking all the dogs that he rescues. He’s also written for Pokemon, Ricky Gervais, and the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as being an Independent publisher over at Summersdale.
The book is a quick, easy-to-read guide that will give you a general overview of all the areas and aspects of writing. The information has been written about before, of course, but Stewart manages to condense that information down without waffling on with an ego.
I’ve outlined a few things from the book, but you can dig deeper if you grab yourself a copy over at Amazon. I don’t want to tell you everything and get sued because I have NO money. I’ll be buying one for the library, though, to keep them from calling the book police.

Anyway, here’s 31 things I learned or was reminded of while reading the book:

#1. Rewrite everything. Then do it again. Be prepared to sling a sentence or a page or a whole novel into the bin. The art is in rewriting the sentence.
#2. Everyone’s writing is BAD. Good writers just keep going.
#3. Your chances of becoming the next J.K Rowling or Stephen King are next to nothing.
 ”Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck.” -Margaret Atwood.
#4. Write using notepads in longhand. Type it up as a second draft onto a computer using diction software or a typewriter. Basically, learn to use a computer, Grandpa. Back up your work, though—Obviously.
#5. Don’t quit your job. Most authors don’t make a lot of money, if any. On page 28, Stewart Ferris has a neat little time timescale of the long process of publishing your book and receiving the second half of your advance. It’s AGES, in case you were wondering.
#6. Read like a writer. The structure, the plot, the sub-plot, the sentences, the word choice, the dialogue, the twists, the character development, and the end. Read closely, very closely.
#7. Apart from the hectic few weeks of the book signing, interviews, and promotion, the rest of the year will be spent alone at your writing desk. Don’t know about you, but it sounds glorious to me.
#8. A writing shed in a pretty garden is a good place to write.
#9. J.K Rowling likes to write in cafes with people and someone to make her coffee. Personally, I think this sounds horrendous. Regardless, there’s a list of places where successful writers have written books. Buy the book to read them.
#10. Create a suitable time to write (I read this chapter twice). Getting up at 4 AM to write SUCKS! People need different amounts of sleep, but the brain doesn’t function well without enough sleep. Again, as mentioned, waking up at 4 AM sucks donkey dick.
”If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is.” -Richard Rhodes.
OOO-EEE, I LIKE THAT QUOTE. I’ll eventually write about the ’The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield which deals with the dreaded resistance.
At any rate, back to it…
#11. Write. Every. Damn. Day. Set a word daily word count goal. Writing 500 words per day would produce one novel a year. 1000 words, two a year. If you’re a full-time writer then 6000 words per day, maybe 7000, of a first draft is achievable. Writing for fourteen hours per day, Salvador Dali wrote his only novel, Hidden Faces, in just four months. And that’s still only 180 words an hour, if you have the momentum to go fourteen hours, that is.
”The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are.” -Ray Bradbury
#12. Keep a notebook on you for ideas, interesting characters, jokes, stories, or dialogue. 
#13. Decide what you want to write and your style of doing it. Read everything, good and bad, in your chosen area. But become an expert in your area and find your voice, your writing style. Copy your favourite writers because as you develop you will create something unique. Readers will appreciate this style and they’ll know what they’re getting into. 
#14. Learn grammar and punctuation by ’active’ reading. In other words, read closely, study the sentences.
#15. Avoid cliches and learn a new word a day. Writes sentences that keep the reader awake. Be punchy.
#16. Don’t send shit writing to a publisher. Edit, edit, edit, till it’s like a polished stone. Don’t send turds.
#17. In your first draft, spit out the words. Then redraft twelve times. Yes! twelve…maybe more. But keep your deleted words somewhere. Stewart elaborates on each draft in his book. Lots of REALLY useful information in these sections.
”Writing is really rewriting—making the story better, clearer, truer.” -Robert Lipsyte
#18. Look into your past for story ideas. Read your heroes, or other great works of literature. Watch movies, listen to music, make notes about the dreams you’ve had. Maybe there’s a story there. It’s all inspiration.
#19. If you are not inspired to write, still write. Do NOT give up. Just clear your head between writing if you have to.
#20. Use technology to your advantage. Life is easier for us on so many levels. Look at what the greats of the past achieved without the use of the internet and Grammer correction software. Don’t waste it!
#21. Write a Blog to be read and noticed (hopefully, this works for me, probably won’t, bloody defeatist that I am).
#22. Join online writing events like National Novel Writing Month where every November people write 50k words in a month, aiming for quantity over quality. There’s also a January Novel writing month, an April national poetry event, and so on and so on…
#23. Genre fiction is easy to structure. Literary fiction is more artistic and experimental, sometimes closer to poetry (I aim for Literature and to stay poor).
#24. Use real-life characters for inspiration. Characters should have a life, a vocabulary, their own agenda. Show, don’t tell. If the character is rebellious, then show him with a bad attitude and breaking rules.
#25. Finish each chapter without wrapping up. Keep them reading on for the outcome. Apparently, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code does this well. I haven’t read it.
#26. If you’re stuck for a story, write from your own experience. It can bring the story to life. 
#27. Short stories are a slice of life. An important moment in a characters life.
Your reader needs to feel as though they are privileged to witness an important moment in the characters life. They are a slice of life. 
#28. Non-fiction is the bread and butter of publishing. They sell more books and they range from 20k words for a small book towards 50-60k for larger. 
#29. If you’re writing books for children, know the age range of your audience. Each age has its own vocabulary and style. Children like to read about other children, not adults. 
“Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none.” -Jules Renard
#30. Publishers are a business. They want to make money. Is your work a commercial product? Check the publisher’s website, they may not be taking submissions and read other books by the publisher to check your book would fit in well with them. Remember, an experienced editor will reject a book based on the covering letter, title, and first page. 
#31. Enter Competitions. Even though this may interrupt your main project. You might gain a good reputation, agents and publishers will take you seriously, your confidence will increase, it will be good for your discipline, you could get interesting feedback, and if you don’t win, you could recycle your work and enter somewhere else.
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one becomes a master.” -Ernest Hemingway 


Amazon‘In this updated and expanded edition, Stewart Ferris uses his industry know-how to give you all the tips, tricks and inside knowledge you will need to become a successful writer, covering all types of writing from books to scripts and beyond. This accessible and informative guide is packed with advice to equip you with the skills you need to launch a writing career.’

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