Sir Terry Pratchett has just won the 13th Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction. This is excellent. He is, undoubtedly, a very funny writer, and deserves it. The prize includes having a Gloucester Old Spot pig named in his honour - and doesn't every author secretly aspire to that?
Many people (including some whose judgement I respect greatly) dismiss Terry's writing as mass-market schlock, saying that his humour is infantile and his plots verge on the ridiculous. They find the covers (of the paperbacks) hideously overfull of bosomy blondes, chunky swords, ugly assorted mythical creatures and posturing musclebound heroes. Others admit to reading him, but undercover (oh, the bliss of the e-reader for allowing one to peruse a whole host of 'unsuitable' books in public!). Personally, I am an out-and-proud Pratchett fan and happy to tell anyone what they are missing out on (serious subjects and ideas such as the the power of journalism, astronomy, the Gulf War, feminism, high finance and racism are just a few he covers).
However, it's neither the fact that he's won a prize, nor the merits of his work that I want to write about today. At this year's Hay Festival, Terry described writing as "running down a hill with wings on your back and taking flight, although sometimes you have to run up and down a few hills." Absolutely true - at least that's how it feels to me too. There are many such gems of writing wisdom out there (from a myriad authors), for those who wish to look for them, as well as reams of advice on everything from punctuation to publication. But I do wonder if there's too much. I wonder if those starting out on this writing journey are now faced with so much material telling them how to write, that they lose sight of the main objective - which is to apply bum to seat and just do it. In other words, the physical practice of setting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is worth a million 'self-help' books.
Asked about the best way to write fantasy, Terry advised looking at how the best do it and told his listeners: “do not sit around listening to me, you should be at home typing.” Absolutely. When I am asked for advice by children, I tell them I have only two essential pieces of writing wisdom to impart.
For all the blogs, books, rules and tips out there, in the end, I believe that is the only writing wisdom anyone who truly has the passion to start on this mad creative rush down the hill really needs, (perhaps in conjunction with Terry's other exhortation to find your own writing voice). So I'll add in his immortal words:1: Read voraciously.
2: Write something every day.
What do all of you think?3. "For Heaven's sake, don't try and write like me. That is suicide."