How to write a book

I have just returned from a most entertaining talk organized by the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) entitled “From Editor to Author — How to get your book published”.  Duly inspired, I have distilled the evening down to the following expertly-imparted nuggets of advice (panellists listed below), should one persist in the desire to see one’s name on a book jacket…
1. Have an idea.

2. Ensure there is at least a teeny niche of interest for that idea.

3. Write the last line first. That way you’ll know when your book is supposed to end.

4. Be prepared to imbue fact with fiction, or vice versa, especially if you have a full-time job.

5. Don’t kid yourself that time is all you need to write a great bonkbuster, it’s more a question of sufficient lust and greed.

6. Your house will be spotless as your deadline approaches. It’s called extreme displacement activity.

7. Silence is overrated when writing.

8. The point is to “show” your reader what’s happening not “tell” them. This is the difference between  journalism and “real” writing.

9. Bad sex is easier to write about than good. Apparently.

10. If the compulsion to write does not eventually dissipate, just get on with it. But don’t tell anyone else that you’re doing it.

11. Never let your friends or family read your manuscript.

12. Understand the difference between an agent and an editor. And it helps if you like at least one of them.

13. If all else fails, publish your masterpiece yourself via Amazon, easier than you think.


The BSME panel was composed of Rachel Johnson, editor of The Lady and author of three books, including ‘The Diary of a Lady: my first year and a half as editor’; Sam Baker, Editor of the award-winning Red Magazine and author of four best-selling novels; David Whitehouse, currently assistant editor of Heat, whose first novel, Bed, was described thus, “ as soulful as it is funny”; Sophie Radice, former editor of Labour Today, contributor to The Guardian and the Observer, with her first book, ‘The Henry Experiment’  published in January 2012 [subsequently serialised on Radio 4], and finally the literary agent Judith Murray of Greene & Heaton.

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