Writer’s Workshop advice

WorkshopAs I mentioned in my previous post (here) I spent Saturday March 23rd 2013 at a convention – Big Finish Day 3. As ever it was an excellent opportunity to network and also a chance to take advantage of the collected wisdom of a room full of writers. I am still mulling over much that was said, but thought I would share some advice that was given on the day.

The Workshop

The Workshop was held at Big Finish Day 3 (a Tenth Planet event) and so all the authors (amongst other credits) produce scripts for audio drama (eg Doctor Who, Blake’s 7 and other works). Be that as it may their advice is, in the main, portable to many other situations.

Matt Fitton hosted the workshop (see his blog Fitton Well) and included in no particular order John Dorney, Andrew Smith, Joseph Lidster, Mark Wright, Cavan Scott, Nev Fountain, Andy Lane and Simon Guerrier. All were happy to share their experiences and a small measure of their collective wisdom.


A favourite bugbear was so-called ‘aspiring writers’. They quite clearly and strongly made the point that being an ‘aspiring writer’ was a fairly meaningless label. You either are a writer or are not a writer.

You can be a writer aspiring to sell or to write better but you can’t just aspire to be a writer.

Lots of subtext to me – the advice I have heard elsewhere from John Dorney ‘Just write and don’t stop’ sprang to mind along with a clear interpretation of the word ‘aspire’ not meaning ‘to daydream’.

A simple, yet powerful message.

How to be successful

Later on the conversation turned to ‘how to be successful’ and made reference to an interview by Neil Gaiman (apparently available on YouTube) in which he distilled it down to three things:

  1. Be brilliant
  2. Be easy to work with
  3. Be on time.

And you only have to be good at two of them!

Clearly teaching brilliance is by no means trivial, though writers should always working on quality and getting insight into their work as they evolve (I had a conversation with Matt Fitton afterwards and touched on some of his learnings over the last year).

What writers can and should do is work on numbers 2 and 3: being easy to work must make for a better relationship with publishers and editors and more opportunities. Getting on with fans must also help and I did note at how accessible all the writers were on Saturday. In the past I have seen successful authors be fairly unpleasant to fans and getting away with poor behaviour because they think they can.

Being on time is the one rule everyone teaches – if you are reliable (and the work is of the right quality) you quickly become trusted and again more opportunities will appear.

Plenty to mull over and I may return to the topic of aspiration in a later post.


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