Thursday, 3 August 2017

5 Writing Commandments to Live By - Mike Thomas

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Unforgivable by Mike Thomas! Unforgivable is the second in the Will MacReady series, about a detective working in Cardiff and following on from Ash And Bones. Here's Mike to talk about some excellent writing commandments and don't forget to look out for my review coming later on today.

5 Writing Commandments to Live By

Every writer has Things That Work For Them. Y’know, those rituals and self-imposed guidelines and downright oddball things they do just to get a couple of pages out during a working day. Some author chums don’t wash much and live – surrounded by coffee cups and cigarette butts and a cat – in their PJs. Nabokov and Hemingway used to write standing up. Hell, Dan Brown whacks on a pair of gravity boots and hangs upside down just to get in the right frame of mind for typing about stolen maps and Jesus and old stuff with dusty clues on.
Personally, I like to wear as little clothing as possible, but we won’t get into that too much as it involves skimpy underwear, nipple tassels, and mood music. Instead, here’s five slightly more palatable suggestions for successful writing…

  1. Get Those Pesky Words Out
Your magnum opus ain’t going to write itself, so aim for 1,000 words a day, minimum. Sit down, stop being all tortured artist – ‘I can’t work in these conditions!’ *checks Twitter for the 37th time that morning* – and do some work, because that is what writing a novel is: work. It is your job. Even if you don’t hit that magical 1k (and why not?) at least you’ll have something on the page. Something is better than The Flashing Cursor of Uselessness on its lovely, empty white screen. As Stephen King – you may have heard of him – says: ‘When asked: “How do you write?” I invariably answer “One word at a time.”’ But you shouldn’t really listen to other writers too much. We’ll come to that in a little bit.

  1. Stuck in the Middle with You
It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a proven method for me: I always, always finish my writing day in the middle of a paragraph or sentence or at the very end of a scene where there’s a hook that gets me more than a tad excited about writing the next part of the story. I just stop. Word count reached, or more than reached and you’ve run out of time because you have to iron the dog or make the kids massage your back after such a terribly trying day typing and drinking fizzy drinks? Stop. This is just so I know exactly where I am going to start the following day, and I cannot wait to get back to the keyboard.

  1. Save, save, save
A very personal one this, and a strange, paranoid habit that I just can’t break. I have my documents set to auto save every five minutes. And… I also click on the save icon just about every time I finish a sentence or a decent paragraph. I am obsessed about it because a long time ago I was on fire while writing a previous novel, had got close to eight thousand words in a marathon writing session… and my computer crashed. I lost all of it. Every. Single. Word. So I vowed never to let it happen again. I may have gone a little overboard: as well as the auto saving and clicking the little ‘save’ icon every three minutes, I religiously back everything up to cloud and then email myself whatever documents I’ve been working on that day. If I added up all the seconds spent saving and emailing and saving again – just in case – it would probably be enough time to write an entire novel. But I’ve not lost a word since so that’ll do me.

  1. Delay the Fun
See those fun things over there? The kids, the PlayStation, the Twitter account? Ooo, those mentions! Those notifications! Hard as it is, ignore it all. And be selfish. You have to write – this is your job, remember? – and that can include the mental space to work through a plotline or decide what a character is going to say (or, whisper it, stare out of the window and laugh as you remember that really funny bit in the last episode of Family Guy). Anyway, shopping, cleaning, cooking, remembering you have a husband or wife – it can all be done later on. And social media: turn off your notifications completely. I have no alerts on my phone, laptop or tablet. Nada. I enjoy making new friends, making jokes and chatting with those friends. But I will get back to you when my work is done. If that’s too late for you, then tough.

  1. Be Yourself
Don’t focus on other people, especially other authors. It achieves nothing and can make you feel worthless. Who cares how many Twitter followers they have, or if they haven’t followed you back, or have unfollowed and blocked you because you kept sending them excerpts from your new7,000-pagee fantasy/fetish hybrid novel ‘Gundar the Vikingdwarf IV: The Ice Realms of Smashfist’ (actually, never do this)? Just do your own thing. In fact, don’t listen to any author advice whatsoever. Including this. Do what works for you. Don’t emulate, or in any way try to copy, otherwise how are you going to find your own ‘voice’? If you’re really going to read those ‘How to Write a Bestseller’-type self-help books just take the little from them that you’ll need and ignore the rest. And when you are published ignore your Amazon sales rankings. Nobody in the entire universe understands their algorithms – not even the smart dudes at CERN – so stop refreshing the page and get on with your work.

About The Author

Mike Thomas was born in Wales in 1971. For more than two decades he served in the police, working some of Cardiff’s busiest neighbourhoods in uniform, public order units, drugs teams and CID. He left the force in 2015 to write full time.

His debut novel, Pocket Notebook, was published by William Heinemann (Penguin Random House) and longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year. The author was also named as one of Waterstones' 'New Voices' for 2010. His second novel, Ugly Bus, is currently in development for a six part television series with the BBC.

The first in the MacReady series, Ash and Bones, was published in August 2016 by Bonnier Zaffre. The sequel, Unforgivable, was published in July 2017.

He lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife, two children and an unstable, futon-eating dog.

More details can be found on the website


  1. Very good advice "do what works for you" I've been trying to finish a novel for a while, I'm still figuring out what works for me. But it's better to figure that out than waste time struggling trying to do something because some has says it's the right way to do it


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