Jeffrey Archer (b. Apr 15): “There’s no substitute for reading great novelists.”

15 Apr


Jeffrey Archer, born 15 April 1940, is an English author and former politician. His books, starting with Kane and Abel, have sold at least 250 million copies worldwide.

Jeffrey Archer’s top 10 writing tips:

  1. Make time. “Decide when you’re going to write. Don’t be casual and only do it as and when it suits you. Don’t think you can write a novel after you’ve done a hard day’s work, it’s insulting to those professional novelists who spend their time doing nothing else.” 
  2. Be disciplined. “For example, I write from 6-8am, 10-12am, 2-4pm, 6-8pm. I keep that routine up for 40-50 days and handwrite every word. I then take a break and go back to it again a month later.” 
  3. Write what you know. “Don’t do vampires, wizards or ghosts because they’re in fashion. Jane Austen wrote about family life in a small village and gave us six of the greatest novels ever written.” 
  4. Get some fresh air. “I go for two long walks between sessions, for two reasons, physical and mental. The plot will buzz around in your mind while you are walking, continually churning over, which it can’t be while you’re actually writing.” 
  5. Do several drafts. “Do not imagine that the first draft of your book is the one that will be published. My latest novel, The Sins of the Father, was 14 drafts and took approximately 1000 hours.” 
  6. Be flexible. “If you think of something better half-way through the writing process, don’t be frightened to go back and incorporate it or even change the story completely.” 
  7. Seek opinions from professionals. “When you want an opinion on what you consider the finished script, seek it from a professional editor, an agent or someone you don’t know, through a third party. Do not seek an opinion from your wife, husband, partner, mistress or close friend. They will lie.” 
  8. Read the greats. “There is no substitute for reading great novelists, and instead of just enjoying their craft, think carefully about how they’ve achieved it. Do they spend pages on description, do they move the story on quickly, how do they make you turn the page? It’s all there in front of you if you look carefully, so at least when you try to do it, you have analysed how successful authors have managed it in the past.” 
  9. Stay fit. “If the body is a physical wreck – too much drinking, smoking, late nights – how can you expect the written word to be anything less than drunken, useless and tired?” 
  10. Don’t give up. “My first novel, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, was turned down by 14 publishers, ended up with an advance of £3,000 and on first printing took a year to sell 3,000 copies. It is still extremely rare for a first book to be a best-seller.”

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