Writing Advice and Snake Oil


There is a book on writing out at the moment that I am undecided on whether to read.

It promises riches and to give you a cracking formula for your fiction novel. Snake oil? I kind of want to read it so I can rail against it, but then I don’t want to give the author my money.

Are there book for artists stating they can give you the technical edge and style, that will make galleries and important collectors pay thousands for your work? I am not aware of any.

So why are there so many on writing?

In defence of writing books, there are as few that I have worked for me. One of which I don’t have on hand; Stephen King’s – On Writing. I mean if a best selling author is going to hand out advice, then you might as well listen to King, oui?

Below are the other books I dip into on occasion.


Keep in mind that two of these books are on the craft, not ‘The way to write a Best Seller!’ And the other on daily routines and rituals. I love this. It’s quite inspiring to dip in and out of, when you need a push to get back to work.

A while ago I read a blog post by Australian writer Tony Wilson, and this quote stayed with me.

‘I call every book a Tatts ticket, because they’re mostly financially worthless, but there’s a slim chance one will take off and cause a spluttering, fountain of coins to pour down the chimney and spill across the floor… I call this ‘casino maths’, and I do casino maths whenever I receive a new book offer.’

There is no formula for what will work for writing. I have read plenty of books, both bestsellers and undiscovered writers, who I think need less love and more love in turn. I am sure many think this about my work, but I sure don’t have the answer for how to write a best seller and nor, in my opinion, does anyone else.

A quote that always makes me laugh is when The Guardian asked author Jonathan Coe this question.

Q. Is there a secret to writing?

A. Yes.

And he said nothing more.

It’s kind of perfect really. Each writer has their own particular alchemy that cannot be replicated. You must find your own voice on the page, and on the street.

How do you do that?

You work it out. It’s called living.

Happy Wednesday.


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