Writing is hard. When I was young, a very wise person (my mother) told me that the hardest part of any job is getting started. Growing up in rural Scotland in the 1960s meant getting out of bed, in winter, when it was still dark, running down to the kitchen — the only heated space in the house — and remaining glued to the front of the Rayburn stove, every morning. ‘Come on,’ my mother would chivvy, ‘Get a wiggle on! Washed and dressed for school! The worst part is getting started.’
She was right. The worst part of any difficult task is getting started. That’s the same whether it be just getting out of the house on a freezing January morning, chopping up the kindling for the living-room fire when you get back from school and would far, far rather go and read — or writing.
Writing is a very hard thing to do. Most people — who never actually tried to write, or whose magnum opus is a semi-coherent string of tweets — think it’s easy. You can tell by their demeanour. ‘But you just sit there!’
When you navigate the minefield of becoming a published author, one of the most important things to remember is this: a good, classy cover design that speaks to the content of the book is essential.
In today’s competitive retail market, good cover design must be as effective and eye-catching in all the digital or e-book formats as it is on the shelf of a conventional store. Potential readers are exposed to a book’s cover design for only a few seconds before moving on, so it must be strong enough to engage them, involve them, and lead them towards the purchase.
There are two basic techniques for how to write a book — or for that matter, any piece. They just become more defined in a book because of the length.
The first is: begin at the top left hand corner of page one and finish at the bottom right hand corner of the last page, and in between follow your nose. We’ll call this the ‘free-form’ method.
The second is: plan everything out. Design the structure of the book with chapter and sub-chapter headings, right to the lowest level. Then fill it up. This one we’ll call the ‘structured’ method.
Most writers to some extent use a combination of both approaches; and they are in any case suited to different types of writing. For example a psychological drama that explores characters’ reaction to their environment, really has to be free-form, to allow the characters to live and to actually respond in a convincing manner. I used this technique in The Warm Pink Jelly Express Train, a novel in which a straight man meets a transsexual and falls in love with her.