(Original Review, 1984-05-30)
I believe that Robert Heinlein's first two rules are invaluable. You must write, and you must finish what you write. Not that I disagree with the rest of his rules, but these for those of us who like to write are terrific.
Some writers are sculptors, who chip away at a featureless block of granite to reveal the statue within. Some writers are architects who build their work from component parts according to a master plan. Some writers are emotional firecrackers who need a gifted editor. And some others can only write crap…Regardless of that, all is for nothing unless you start, and finish. Furthermore, in the wake of Roland Barthes' "The Death of the Author" it doesn't really matter what you write, because the reader will create his own narrative. Before Barthes revolutionised Western thought it was hard to write a novel because you had to come up with a hundred thousand words of plot and characterisation and setting etc. Or thousands of words of internal monologue if you were a literary novelist. Thankfully we've moved beyond that.
Bearing Barthes' ideas in mind, when I wrote my first book review I emptied my mind of all thoughts and typed the first words that came into my head. I typed at a furious pace. So quickly that the words began to glow red and then eventually blue. The individual letters began to exhibit relativistic effects - they became heavy and bendy. It took me eight hours of furious typing to complete first review. It was crap of course. What does Barthes know?? More importantly, what do I know? Nothing!
I called my approach “The Granular Success Egg Hollow Pathway Impostor Drumbeat.” I have yet to find a publisher for all the novels I’ve written but that's not important. What's important is that I write, and finish what I write. I believe Barthes argued the writer was a character in the text. Wolfgang Iser argued that the reader “completes” the text in the act of reading.
Another piece of advice you of want to succeed in writing a novel:
1) Be youngish and photogenic;
2) Lure an agent with your headshot - or be well-known already;
3) Get a PR who is at least as good as your agent;
4) Include some mildly kinky sex scenes in your book and market it as being aimed at middle-aged women;
5) Live on Facebook with a thousand-selfie-a-day habit;
6) Praise god for your God-given talent then adopt atheism;
7) Tell everyone to get fucked.
To quote Somerset Maugham: "There are only three ways to write a novel ....unfortunately, no one knows what they are .... "