Published: 06:00, 16 April 2020
Always wanted to write but never had the time? Now's our chance.
Whether it's a novel, a short story or a blog, we give you tips and advice and speak to one man who actually did it...
The new author's tips:
Matthew Ross left the Howard School in Rainham at 16 and started work in the construction industry - but always harboured a secret ambition to be an author.
Now, at 48, he's realised that goal, publishing his first novel, Death Of a Painter, but admits: "I was always keen on reading and wanted to write but never said it out loud. It was a bit like saying you want to be a spaceman. So I kept it to myself."
After a brief foray into stand-up and writing comedy, it was a pivotal moment in his life when his father died and he became a father himself, that he decided to take a step towards his dreams.
He signed up for a writing course with renowned Faber Academy. It might sound simple but it worked for him, and is something he wholeheartedly recommends, though it involved some dedication. "It was a great course. I had a germ of an idea but I didn't know what to do with it. The course, and the tutor, Richard Skinner, was a terrific mentor. It was a six month course which I did around work and family."
The hardest bit had been taking constructive criticism from his peers, but it was something he had to learn to take. "I can't take praise - I think it's just flim flam. But any kind of criticism I take totally to heart."
He came out at the end with a first draft of the book now on the shelves, a darkly comic crime fiction, which is the first in what will be a series featuring beleaguered builder Mark Poynter, and set in the Medway Towns.
Martin, who has completed two other books and is sketching out a fourth, added: "It's a hobby for me - some people play golf, or cycle, I write. All my life I wanted to write and now it's here, on my table, it's quite weird."
Death Of A Painter costs £8.99 in paperback and is published by Red Dog Press. Out Monday, April 27.
Tips for aspiring writers during lockdown from Headcorn-based Helen Lewis, co-founder, The Author School:
"They say everyone has a book in them and if you have wanted to write but been putting it off, or you’ve got a manuscript languishing in your bottom drawer that needs attention but you never quite get round to it, perhaps now is your chance? At The Author School, we provide support, advice, encouragement and practical tips for writers who want to take their author career forward. There is so much more to being an author than writing a book," says Helen.
1. Get connected online. Twitter is the social media platform for the publishing world so get on there, build up your network, connect with fellow authors and learn from them. Use search hashtags such as #bookstagram #writingcommunity #amwriting
2. Learn more about the production process so once that manuscript is finished you know what the next steps are. We recommend you find a beta readers, someone who isn’t too biased towards you, who will be able to offer genuine feedback on that first draft.
3. Understand that there is more than one route to publication. You can completely self-publish or you can work with a self- publishing team/company to help you, so you can outsource elements to experts such as Ink! Publishing at inkpublishingservices.com
4. Read within your genre - look at the trends, writing styles, what’s selling, what’s not, and learn as much as you can about the genre you’re hoping to get involved with.
5. There are no rules to writing or becoming an author. There are so many opportunities and options - do what feels right for you - but make sure you understand your options.
Find out more by visiting theauthorschool.com
Here are some websites to help you get writing:
1. WordPress is free and one of the most popular sites to create a blog. You can customise it as much as you like so you'll really feel like you own it. Details at wordpress.org
2. More glossy than WordPress and not entirely free, create your own blog with wix.com. There's a plethora of templates to choose how your blog could look - and then all you have to do is post on it. There are small costs involved.
3. If you'd like lots of nice images on your blog and a bit less writing, try Tumblr (tumblr.com), which is a free blogging site which is more aimed towards multimedia and social media-type content.
4. Want to learn more about writing like Matthew Ross? Udemy has writing warm-ups to help you flex your writing muscles in three minutes a day, though there are small costs involved. Visit udemy.com