Getting on the Write-Track

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“There is nothing to writing – all you have to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway.

Ernest makes it sound simple enough there, and possibly fun, for those into that kind of thing. But of course the reality of writing is that it is difficult; Hemingway also suggested, remember, that any young person thinking of becoming a writer should first try to hang himself (because at least that way he would “have the story of the hanging to commence with”).

Of course, at Nothing In The Rulebook, we absolutely do not suggest hanging oneself – or any other self, for that matter – just to be clear. Instead, we advise practice, and listening to and learning from others. Because of that, it was nothing short of being our duty to inform you all about a fantastic writing tool to aid you in finally writing that novel you’ve been working on – or even just starting to write anything, really; anything at all.

Write-Track is a supportive, goal-setting community and writing productivity tool for writers who want to write more.

Whether you’re writing a haiku, a comedy caper, a hardboiled cop drama or a zombie romance thriller set in space, one thing remains the same – you need to get it written. Write-Track helps you do just that; and as a result comes highly recommended by both of our moderators.

“Write-Track is a fantastic tool for all writers – aspiring, experienced or otherwise,” Billy the Echidna says. “No matter what you’re writing, it helps you track the frequency of your writing, set yourself achievable writing goals, and also monitor your writing against those goals.”

“If anything it would be a failure of mine not to recommend Write-Track,” Professor Wu adds. “This is, simply, a quality tool for all writers. If you’re a writer and you’re still reading this, frankly I’m unsure why, because you should be getting involved with Write-Track right now! Just like Nothing in the Rulebook, Write-Track has that community feel – where you can engage with other writers and offer and receive the support and motivation to keep writing.”

So there you have it. A fabulous writing tool for writers. But don’t just take our word for it – check it out for yourselves and get on the Write-Track!

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Why do some authors write in secret?

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Writers often hide behind a pen name or keep the very act of writing a secret from colleagues, friends or family. But what is it about writing that makes writers want to hide from view? Chris Smith investigates…

Pick up the pen (name)

It wasn’t until the publication of his first novel Call for the Dead in 1961 that David John Moore Cornwell became better known as John Le Carré – but not to his colleagues at British secret service agencies MI5 and MI6 where he worked at the time.

Cornwell took the pen name Le Carré (Le Carré is French for ‘the square’) because serving officers were forbidden to write under their own names – a relief possibly for Cornwell as interviews suggest a certain reluctance to expose his hobby anyway. Le Carré says that most of his early writing was done on his 90-minute daily commute between London and his home. Whilst the later electrification of the line made the journey far quicker, the result was “a great loss to literature” according to the former spook.

Le Carré also wrote secretly during his lunch hour and grabbed any time he could during the working day to plot out his novels. “I was always very careful to give my country second best,” he said in an interview with the Paris Review in 1996. Le Carré left the secret service to concentrate on his writing soon after the success of his 1963 novel The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

From commercials to couplets – the copywriting poet

Another writer who invested rather more in writing than the day job was American poet and novelist James Dickey. After being unable to find his job of choice – a lecturing position – Dickey was forced to take a copywriting role at New York advertising firm McCann-Erickson. Something that involved him having to grind out endless perky radio ads for the likes of Coca-Cola. Unbeknownst to his fellow mad men, Dickey used each morning to dash off his commercials and the afternoons to write poetry and prose – courtesy of the company typewriter.

According to his biographer, Dickey used to keep his office door locked and write on a desk scattered with poetry manuscripts and books. When colleagues came knocking he’d hurriedly hide his notes and pretend to be engrossed in Coke’s latest ad campaign. Things caught up with Dickey after he started making a name for himself as a writer and his bosses suspected his poetry was taking priority over his promotions – which of course it was. Dickey was fired from the ad company in 1961.

Jane Austen’s furtive habits

Furtive writing was also a character trait of Jane Austen – author of Pride and Prejudice and other literary classics. Austin lived surrounded by her family in a large busy bustling household. She used to write in the family sitting room and whilst she expected constant interruptions, she didn’t want anyone outside her immediate family – such as servants or visitors – finding out about her writing.

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Jane Austen

To make sure she could quickly stash away her work, Austin used to write on tiny scraps of paper that could be easily brushed under a large piece of blotting paper she kept with her at all times. She also wrote with a box of sewing material nearby so she could pretend to be engrossed in needlework should an unwanted visitor come snooping around.

Using a pen name

Whilst writers like Le Carré and Dickey might have been delighted to escape the confines of the office in order to concentrate on their writerly endevours, Henry Green – an English author best remembered for novels Party Going and Loving – embraced his day job and gained emotional stability from it.

‘Henry Green’ was the pen name of wealthy industrialist and aristocrat Henry Yorke who ran his family’s manufacturing plant in the Midlands by day and wrote his novels by night. Yorke found solace in the structure of the everyday and found that it fuelled rather than stifled his creativity. He used a pen name because he never wanted any of his business associates to know about his work – although they did in time as his fame grew.

Sue Townsend’s secret

British comic novelist and playwright Sue Townsend spent years writing in secret whilst she raised her family and worked a string of jobs in factories and shops.

Indeed, it was only in her thirties, after her fourth child was born and with large doses of coaxing from her husband that she started attending a writers’ group at Leicester’s old Phoenix Theatre. Initially too shy to speak, she didn’t write anything for six weeks. Then she was then given a fortnight to write a play. This became the thirty-minute drama Womberang (1979), set in the waiting room of a gynecology department – after that, there was no stopping her.

Townsend didn’t adopt a pen name like Yorke or Cornwell. She didn’t conceal her writing for fear of colleagues or servants finding out nor to gain inspiration or emotional stability. Rather more likely is that she didn’t reveal her writing for the most human of reasons. She didn’t think her work was any good.

In interviews, Townsend says that as an unknown writer, she used to store up ideas for characters and stories. She always thought she’d have a use for them later on. Perhaps no wonder then that her most famous work is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.

Are you an undercover writer?

The team at Write Trackwrit reckon that for whatever reason, lots of writers write in secret.  They have day jobs, families and chores that take all their time and much of their energy – but they still find the time to write.

Do you hide your writing from your colleagues, friends and family (or like Jane Austen from your servants)? When and where do you secretly write? Why do you keep it a secret? Tell us your furtive writing habits by visiting the website and getting in touch. We promise that your secret is safe with us!

About the author of this post

Chris Smith is a writer, blogger, former philosophy lecturer and now co-founder at Prolifiko, a tech startup making digital productivity tools for writers of all types. His most recent side project is a new blog called Founders and Philosophers, where he’s aiming to write about what entrepreneurs can learn from history’s greatest thinkers.  He tweets at @SwarmComms.

Tea Time in Haworth

In a tale of bread rolls, boiled sweets and missed opportunities in Rotherham, Jean and Graham wait for their friends to turn up for tea after a grand day out in Yorkshire. Written by Chris Smith.

About the writer

Chris Smith is a full time content marketing and PR type who dabbles in scriptwriting, creative writing and occasional journalism. He is co-founder of Write-Track with Bec Evans. He tweets at @SwarmComms.

Experience: Working with a writing mentor

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I don’t have an infectious disease but if I did, I imagine telling people you have one garners much the same reaction as telling people you’ve written a short comedy film.

There’s normally some initial interest – even enthusiasm – but then a yawning chasm of social awkwardness opens as people think I might expect them to like the film or even worse – find it funny.

Help, guidance and expertise

Not withstanding this reaction I am pressing on with my lonely foray into character comedy and writing what I hope might someday be the pilot of a sitcom. I am helped in this by Micheal Jacob, my writing mentor who has, so far never backed away from me in a social situation (although there’s still time).

Micheal is a hugely experienced former BBC exec producer and is behind some of the UK’s best-loved comedies including The Smoking RoomMy Family and Birds of a Feather. He is also the author of a smashing book on TV sitcom Getting It On and I am genuinely honoured to have his help, guidance and expertise. I am only sorry that I am not writing things more quickly. Indeed whole civilizations have lived and died in the space of time I have taken to write 27 pages of script.

Learning from Micheal: advice for working with a mentor

In 2013, I won a competition through comedy film production company COFILMIC to have my script of Tea Time in Haworth, made into a short film. Micheal kindly offered to script edit for me and then after chatting about magical northern realism and his experiences with tempestuous actors, encouraged me to keep writing – but next time a longer piece. Which is what I’m currently trying to do.

Here are my five tips on what I’ve learned from working with Micheal:

  1. Realise what a mentor is for
    A mentor isn’t going to tell you what to write or how to write – however much you might want them to. They’re not going to write things for you. You have to do the thinking and the writing. For me, Micheal steers me in the right general direction and gives me constructive advice and feedback via sometimes frustratingly vague but eventually always very useful comments.
  2. It’s up to you to do the work
    In an early email exchange, Michael said that I should make one part of my story ‘more complicated’. What in God’s holy order does that mean? It’s already complicated – isn’t it? I went away and downloaded a script of the genius that is The Smoking Roomand broke it down into scenes to see what ‘complicated’ meant. I then bought a book of Royle Familyscripts and read all three series – taking notes as I went. If you’re still unsure ask for clarification but do the work first.
  3. Be ready to take brutally honest feedback
    If you want people to say only nice things about your work, go ask your mum. I find writing workshops where everyone sits round saying how great other people’s ideas are to be deeply unhelpful. Micheal is always courteous and polite with his feedback but the message is always crystal clear. A mentor doesn’t do the writer any favours if they’re not frank. It’s good to be a bit scared of them.
  4. Know your own style but trust their judgement
    Part of the problem with writing scripts is that every bugger has a view on them. But some bugger’s views are better than others – like Micheal’s. If you’re writing something like a sitcom and your mentor tells you something won’t work – that’s because it probably doesn’t work. If you feel you’re being forced into taking a course of action that you wholly disagree with – you’ve probably got the wrong mentor.
  5. Never take your mentor’s help for granted.
    Be nice to them, don’t abuse their help, always understand they are busy. Don’t hassle them but make it clear that if you need them to look at something quickly. They’re a writer, they know that you work to deadlines. Also, be respectful of how you communicate with them. In general, writers tend to like good writing and get pissed off with typos, poor spelling and general sloppiness – whether in your work or correspondence. I know I do.

So, in summary:

  • Don’t expect your mentor to do your writing for you – that’s your job
  • Feedback isn’t always going to be easy to understand – do the research
  • Feedback isn’t always going to be easy to take – deal with it
  • If you really don’t agree with your mentor’s advice – get a new mentor
  • Respect people and don’t be a pain in the ass (this is just general life advice)

About the author of this post

Chris is a writer, blogger, former philosophy lecturer and now co-founder at Prolifiko, a tech startup making digital productivity tools for writers of all types. His most recent side project is a new blog called Founders and Philosophers, where he’s aiming to write about what entrepreneurs can learn from history’s greatest thinkers.  He tweets at @SwarmComms.

 

You’ve read about it: now watch the film!

You can now watch Tea Time In Haworth, the excellent short film written by Chris, here. Nothing in the rulebook’s very own movie critic and film aficionado, Professor Wu, says: “Tea Time in Haworth is an absolutely excellent film – funny, interesting and engaging all in equal measure.”