Sunday, September 11, 2011

Guest Post with O.C. Heaton

How to write
I’m often asked how I got into writing. 

“How do you write?”

“What are your writing dos and don’ts?”

I decided to put this post together to try and answer these questions. As with everything that I write I did a little research beforehand, for guidance. I visited other authors’ blogs to try and understand their writing tricks and tactics, but their ideas about how to write and mine simply don’t marry up. I don’t really follow any of the tried, tested or recommended ways of doing things.

I just freestyle. And freestyling seems to be the story of my life!

It’s quite frightening at first, but on reflection perhaps it isn’t. It just proves that there is no right or wrong way to learn how to write, just your way.

So here’s my story:

I was a very late starter. Until I started writing The Human Race at the grand old age of 35, I hadn’t written a fictional story in more than 25 years. In fact the last story I remember writing was a short story about a swarm of bumble bees and wasps on a “hunt” for humans, back when I was at school! That’s not to say I haven’t written at all during that period – I have, I’ve written loads.
I was a lawyer for eight years. That meant lots of writing… mainly commercial leases though. Yuck! After I left law I didn’t write for five years. When you are trying to grow a business empire, there is very little need – or time – for words. Then I became a business consultant and we all know how much they like to write… As I’m sure you can tell, writing has always been a big part of my life.
I have never been on a writing course. I’m not sure that you need to, to learn how to write. Your “voice” is your voice. Freestyle has worked for me!

There are downsides to this approach. Free styling isn’t always time-efficient – and it took me 10 years to write my first novel. Yes, that’s how long it took to write The Human Race. Don’t spend 10 years writing a novel! It’s bad for your health. It’s bad for your relationships. It’s bad for the story.  Everything.

I am writing the sequel far more quickly. All in all, when it is finished it should have taken about two years. I would add that this process has been just as difficult and painful; however there has been a shorter period of difficulty and pain to endure.

My tip, to make the process as painless as possible: sign up to Spotify! I play music when I write. Usually it is very loud and anthemic, but it’s amazing how quickly you get through your collection during a six hour writing stint. That’s why I joined Spotify: unlimited music on tap. Heaven! I am currently ploughing through the entire back catalogue of Nina Simone. What a voice.

While I love to listen to music while I write, I don’t really read at all. I can’t afford to. It’s too much of a distraction and, as the lost decade indicates, I love distractions all too well. The only thing I read is the stuff I research – and if you have read The Human Race you will know that I love research. Right from the beginning I wanted to fuse fact with fiction, so that anyone reading the story would struggle to spot where one stopped and the other began. Consequently I surf the Internet like crazy when I’m writing. Some say it’s a horrible distraction and should be disconnected. I disagree. I love the Internet. It’s an absolute Godsend for me.

It’s just as well. I love finding out about stuff. Anything. Finding out how it works. Where it is. How it got there. Why it got there.


If your writing is not going well, don’t blame anyone or anything but yourself. I realised very early on that you can write anywhere at any time of day and you don’t need a piece of paper or a pen or a deadly quiet room. Just your own overactive and unstoppable mind.

So there you have it, that’s how I write.

That’s not to say that this is how you should write.

All you need to do is find out what works for you.

Thank you for stopping by O.C., I have to say my writing style is pretty much the same, glad to know I'm not the only one!

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