An Original Copy

An Original Copy
(Imitate to Innovate)

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

— Pablo Picasso

In my article Plagiarism Is A Wonderful Teacher, I told you about my first foray into the filmmaking world (as an eight-year-old) and how I ripped off a popular movie to create my own story. I continued that into my teens and throughout my early learning process. It was a lot of fun and took away the mental strain of creating a full set of original characters. If you’re struggling for ideas, you should try it out.

The insanely (and inexplicably) popular Fifty Shades of Grey series started off as Twilight fan-fiction.

Inspiration comes from everywhere.

My first novel was inspired by a DT teacher who hated me, and my love of all things gory . . . 


As a teen (and following me long into my adult life) I found it extremely difficult to engage in any type of hands-on DIY-type activities. I was good at sports, but when it came to design technology, woodwork, building, engineering — anything deemed “manly”, I guess — I couldn’t do it. Or I didn’t want to, which is basically the same thing.

My time in class was spent talking, joking, messing about, throwing stuff around, sabotaging my work and generally just acting a fool for the entertainment of my friends. The usual dumb teen shit.

After months of putting up with my dickish and lazy behaviour, the Head of DT kicked me out. In spite of Design Technology being a required test for my GCSEs, he said it would be a waste of money to enter me for the test as I would clearly fail. Which was true. I couldn’t even build a wooden box. He hated me, and understandably so.

It also worked in my favour, and I’m grateful he took such extreme action.


Every DT lesson after that, while everyone else had to hammer away at a box, I had my own table — out of the class, down the hall, away from everybody. My teacher didn’t give me any specific tasks to complete. He said I could revise, listen to music, doodle on a pad, plot murder, whatever. He didn’t give a shit as long as I was out of his way.

Instead of wasting my time, I chose to write a novel. Up until that point I’d only written an offensive short story for my English class (read about that here) and didn’t have any real desire to be a writer. If anything, I thought I’d become the next Eminem.

Anyway, I took up my spot in the corner with a red-lined work book (which I’d stolen from one of the DT classes) and a black biro, and I began to write my first novel — Scream 4: Scream Louder. For some reason, I also gave myself the pen name Casey Jaxon, which I later changed to Kasey with a K. And then I threw it away completely and stuck with my real name. 

In any case, I’m a little sketchy on how I came to write the Scream novel. All I know is that I’d been a big fan of the first two movies (at the age of twelve I’d convinced an adult in HMV to buy them for me) and I found the third film painful to watch. The dialogue, the scenes, the construction, the reveal — everything about it was wrong.

I figured I could write a better Scream 4 and send it off to the film studios. So I got to work on my masterpiece, and by the end of the year I’d completed my first movie-novel . . . and it was terrible.


When I look back on it now (and also the ill-conceived script version), I cringe at how bad it is. No amount of rewriting and re-jigging can fix it. The writing is awful, the dialogue is over-the-top, the plot is all over the place, and the reveal of the multiple killers is laughable. 

Around the time I finished writing the script version, a website called TriggerStreet popped up. Founded by Kevin Spacey, this website was originally a place for everyone to post their scripts and get feedback. If enough people liked and rated your screenplay, there was a possibility TriggerStreet (or Hollywood, or whoever) would option your movie and record it for the big screen. I posted it up, figuring somebody would discover my script, pay me millions, and film the damn thing.

I had no idea. Even with all the negative responses I received, I was resolute: This is gold. 

(A gold piece of shit.) 


But I kept writing, and that’s the main thing. I evolved as a writer. I grew from somebody who stole his ideas from other minds — even my Scream 4 plot was merely a mishmash and rehash of the other films — to a writer with his own imagination. I stuck at it and cultivated my skills. And although I wrote a lot of horrific, derivative work in the early days, it all helped me become the writer I am today. It layered my progress.

You think Michael Jordan could do a 360 dunk in the hoop his first time? No. It takes years of practice. Even with raw talent, you have to hone it. Look at the work of the best authors — see what they do right, check what they do wrong. They’re not infallible.

Practice, plagiarise, copy, and one day you’ll notice your style creeping through. And when it does, water it, let it grow, and wait until it takes over and eventually you’ll see nothing but YOU.

That’s when you know you’ve become the writer you want to be.

If only the journey ended there . . .


Subscribe To Receive New Posts Straight To Your Inbox

Join 10,166 other subscribers

Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski

410MZ2FASWLHam On Rye is a semi-autobiographical novel that chronicles Charles Bukowski’s early childhood leading all the way through to his mid-twenties.

The story is told in first-person through the fictional lens of Henry Chinaski. Starting from a young age, each section is written in the voice of that time period, which makes the book almost feel like a diary. The reader soon becomes caught up in Chinaski’s life as we witness the change in his maturity, the progression of his thoughts, and his gradual switch in perception of the events and people around him. And yet seven-year-old Chinaski still sounds similar to twenty-five year old Chinaski, which is where the genius in this book lies — Bukowski manages to write in a singular and unique voice and yet stretch it over a period of years, moving seamlessly between time periods without sacrificing the authentic voice of his central character and narrator.

And Bukowski doesn’t hold back or try to sugar coat anything. Bad or good, it’s all here for everyone to read in graphic detail. He takes us step by step through his tough upbringing with an abusive father, his sexual awakening in his early teens (with Henry suffering a ridiculous level of horniness which every male should be able to relate to), his torturous confidence-crippling skin condition, his propensity towards random acts of violence, and his eventual decline into a directionless, misogynistic, womanising, borderline alcoholic with nothing to live for, no one to die for, and nothing to look forward to. Bukowski portrays Chinaski as lost and confused — maybe even hurt and insecure — but most importantly, he comes across as real.

Ham On Rye may not appeal to those who prefer heavily structured and manipulative genre books. There’s no plot as such, no deliberate structure, no twists, and no real direction, other than forward, from one moment in his life to the next. The focus is as sporadic as the main character’s is, and that’s the point. His whole world is just one day at a time, one event at a time: the next fight, the next lay, the next drink. And we’re given a roadside view of it all, as depressing as it can sometimes be. There’s no happy ending, no life lesson learned or big character change at the end. Bukowksi just gives his readers the truth and feeds them wisdom through his own pitfalls. 

Above all, the book is hilariously sarcastic. It’s the equivalent of having a politically incorrect, foul-mouthed, sexist granddad tell you a lifetime of anecdotes. But don’t be blinded by the filth. The book is packed with insight. Bukowski offers a lot more depth below the surface. It’s merely hidden by his brashness and ego.

In short, if you’re not easily offended and have a good sense of humour, check out Ham on Rye. It might just be one of the funniest books you’ll ever read.

Subscribe To Receive New Posts Straight To Your Inbox

Join 10,166 other subscribers

Ubiquitous Dreams

Ubiquitous Dreams

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep 

because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

— Dr. Seuss

Ever since the backend of my teen years I’ve had a dream to open a coffee-shop-slash-library. I envision it to be half Starbucks, half Waterstones: a place for writers and readers to commune.

I don’t know if a place like this already exists — maybe it does; and if it does, please send me a link to where I can find it. I’d love to hang out there. But in case it doesn’t, here’s the idea for my store. I’m going to outline it for you.

If someone wants to become my partner, or sink 50K into it, then great. We’ll get started right away. Until then, I’m going into this like Lenny and George’s farm dream: with rabbits, a field, and my imagination wide open. If you have a few minutes, I’d like you to join me . . .

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” ― John Lennon

Every day I see people in Starbucks tucked away in a corner reading a novel, or at the table typing away on their laptops — writing reports, emails, death notes, or possibly even working on their first or fifth novel. J.K. Rowling reportedly wrote the bulk of her early Harry Potter books in a local coffee shop. The trend has a kind of mystique surrounding it. If you’re a writer, you’ll be seen in one of these places, sipping a latte and knuckling down to work.

My dream is to have a coffee shop similar to these, but one that’s specifically related to literature. It would be a known community for writers or readers of any ilk: professional, amateur, crime writer, children’s author, screenwriter, desperate housewife. A place everyone can go to either indulge in their love of reading, or get to work on their latest masterpiece in a tranquil and encouraging environment. The coffee, biscuits and assorted food and drink items would be there merely as fuel for your creativity.

But there’s more to it than that.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve:

the fear of failure.” — Paulo Coehlo

I’d name the place Ubiquitous — a kind of ironic nod to the ubiquity of current coffee shop masters, but also an in-joke to the writing and reading elite who’d instantly recognise the word and understand it, as opposed to the less educated who probably wouldn’t. For short, and for commercial purposes, it would be known simply as U-bix.

I’d split the interior into sections: an area for the casual drinker at the front, a corner for the readers (you can bring your own book, or pick one from the shelf), a mini-crèche way at the back for the mothers who never seem to find a moment of quiet time to pursue their writing dreams, and a section specifically set out for writers.

With free WiFi in place, writers of any kind (novelists, poets, or those writing romantic letters to long-lost loves and A-list movie stars) would be encouraged to set up their laptop and get to work. They wouldn’t be harassed into buying drinks or forced to spend a certain limit — they can relax into their writing, knowing that when they grow hungry or thirsty, they only have a few yards to walk for a refreshment. When they feel like taking a break, they can join the reading corner. Or go outside and stretch their legs to get the brain juices flowing again.

The reading area will consist of a wall-to-wall bookshelf carrying all the latest releases in a variety of genres. Customers can pick one and read it in one of the many comfortable chairs and beanbags. If they like the book, they can purchase it at the till. Customers would also have the option to download the book to their e-reading device.

We’d offer discounted books based on loyalty: for instance, with every five coffees/hot chocolates, the customer would be rewarded with a 10% discount or free e-book. If they’d prefer to simply read a novel in the store, day after day, without purchasing it, that’s okay too. Like a library, U-bix would encourage customers to hang around and read.

If enough people stopped by to read (and with a crèche in back for the mothers, it would be the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon), we’d hopefully be able to work a deal with Amazon and the larger book publishers. We’d promote their authors’ work in exchange for exclusive discount offers. It’s a win-win: they’d market their writers direct to the readers, and we’d have an up-to-date reading corner full of exciting new titles.

Alongside all of this, I have plenty of minor add-ons to implement.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” 

― Eleanor Roosevelt

The napkins would all have a quote on them — either about writing, or something uttered by a writer, or direct from a book, past or present. The drinks would also have a quote wrapped around their middle. If the customer is curious about the quote and wants to know more about the writer or the book it’s from, they can ask a member of staff who’d be happy to introduce them to more of the writer’s work. Just like in a bookshop, our staff would be there to recommend books to the customers or assist with their searches.

They would also help to inspire the writers by keeping up their spirits.

On top of that we’d run short story competitions weekly. We’d encourage writers to pen their stories in-store and the winners would find themselves prominently displayed on our website. Customers would then have the option to download the winners’ story on their phones or e-reading devices for free with their food and drink purchases. With enough participation in the long run, we’d eventually start a monthly free U-bix magazine filled with short stories for our customers (by our customers) to take away.

Or for them to read at the table with their morning coffees.

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” ― Vincent Van Gogh

Anyway, that’s the dream. A coffee shop specifically for people like me: writers. A place they’ll feel welcome and be actively encouraged to write. A place where they’ll be surrounded by others who are suffering like them: with writer’s block, with a hard scene, with a rough patch of dialogue they can’t fix. People who understand their plight.

And in the future, when I’m a multimillionaire writer, maybe I’ll be in a position to pursue it. For now, I’ll just imagine it and hope that one day it’ll become a reality. 

Maybe I’ll get lucky and Starbucks will steal the idea and set it up. 

Or maybe it’ll go the way of Lenny and George.

Who knows?


For those who like the idea, do you have any suggestions on how it could be improved? As a writer (or reader) what would you like to see implemented in the store? How could U-bix improve your writing or reading experience? Write your ideas in the comments.

I’ll consider them all — and possibly add them to my dream world.

Along with my mansion, seven Ferraris, and multiple clones of my fiancée.

Subscribe To Receive New Posts Straight To Your Inbox

Join 10,166 other subscribers

Everything You Write Is Terrible

Everything You Write Is Terrible
(But It Gets Better)

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.

You need to start somewhere.”

— Anne Lamott

At the hormonal and complicated age of 14, I held no desire, secret or otherwise, to be a writer. My dream was to be a professional footballer. Schoolwork bored me. I found writing essays and book reports tedious, although I had an aptitude for English. Then one day my teacher assigned the class coursework: we had to write a short story based off the title A Moment Of Crisis. He didn’t specify what we had to write about, just as long as it was inspired by the title. 

In those days, before the writing bug bit me, I hated writing of all kinds, but especially creative writing. For whatever reason I’d convinced myself I didn’t have an imagination, and wouldn’t be able to pen anything interesting anyway. Poems, stories, novels, they all seemed like hard work with no possible upside. Hard work for the sake of it, which is the worst kind. My poems were always acrostic because I was too lazy to construct something original from scratch, and my stories, up until that point, were always written by my mum — along with the rest of my English coursework.

But something compelled me to give this one a shot.

kk ,

Mr. Judelson gave us a deadline and the class hunkered down to work. The person next to me began writing a drama about her father — I’m assuming she had skeletons in her closet she needed to dig through. Behind me, a girl chose an even deeper subject: her story revolved around a teenager sitting outside a waiting room, deciding whether to abort a baby or not. I still remember those two stories, because at the time they seemed too bleak to me. Boring and lifeless. Who gives a shit about abortions or absent fathers? I wondered. 

My attention span has always been on the small side. If I’m not entertained fairly quickly, I switch my brain off and move on to a different task. I’ve long suspected I have some type of ADHD. Fortunately I’ve been able to focus that extra energy into my work, which not only keeps my mind occupied but gives me an outlet. If I don’t have a book in my hand, or some work to edit or write, or a TV programme to watch, I feel lost. I hate not doing anything. Maybe I’m just a workaholic or unsatisfied with life. I’ll ask a shrink one day. Either way, I didn’t have the time or the inclination to write a boring incest abortion drama. I wanted to write something that would get the heart pumping: meaning action, blood, gore, and a couple lipstick lesbians to decorate the cake. So instead of taking the route of my nearest classmates — plumbing the depths of their emotions for something deep and literary — I chose to write something closer to a film scene: a bank heist.

Probably in an attempt to rebel against my teacher, or the school system, or whatever constricted me at the time, I filled my story with swear words, sex scenes, and gratuitous violence. I didn’t think it was allowed, but I stuck it all in there anyway. I figured if I was being forced to write, I might as well get some enjoyment out of it.

Which I did. Although the story was terrible in almost every way.


Zero thought went into the construction of my story. On top of that, many of the scenes made little to no sense. It was like a Michael Bay movie: I was blowing shit up for the sake of it. Everything lacked context or motive. One scene in the early version was so horrific my mother forced me to cut it out. At the time she’d been typing the story up on her computer at work — we either didn’t have a computer at home yet, or it was broken. I can’t remember. In any case, she stopped typing and refused to add the scene into the final version. (She also changed I’m scared shitless to I’m scared enough to shit myself because she hadn’t heard of the word shitless before. But that’s irrelevant.)

The scene she cut involved one of the main criminals in the bank heist penetrating one of the hostages with his pump-action single-barrel shotgun, using the weapon as some kind of metal dildo, fucking this girl on the bank floor until she orgasmed. Her screams of delight coincided with the criminal pulling the trigger — a double explosion, so to speak. I still remember the scene vividly. I thought it was hilarious, smart, groundbreaking, edgy and it probably derived from too much Eminem and maybe a sublayer of teenage misogyny. Who knows? Thankfully, though, my mother forced me to cut it out.

My point is: I wrote it in the first place. I then read it back and thought it was good. And it wasn’t. It was a ridiculous, utterly unrealistic, and quite possibly offensive and needless scene. At fourteen I had no idea what I was doing.

When I finally handed it in to be graded, I expected the work to be torn up, and I thought I’d be sent to the Head Teacher’s office to be told off. Instead, Mr. Judelson loved it and gave me a B-plus. He called it “terrifying” and “inventive” and praised it to the roof. I recall him reading some of it to the class.

Looking back, however, the story was horrible.

Badly written and amateurishly executed.

But I wrote it. 


My second story wasn’t much better. It might even have been worse. HiJack was written without any assignments set by my teacher. It was about — nothing, essentially. It followed a character called Jim Sullivan as he gets a flat tire and pulls to the side of the road. Out of nowhere (and for no discernible reason) some people try to shoot him. He deals with them, and then a drunken tramp wanders along the motorway and attacks him. He deals with him too, but then runs across the road to escape the police and gets hit by a truck, which somehow snags his top and drags him five miles before stopping. The hero then unhooks himself and claws his way toward a nearby gas station, which, inconveniently (and randomly) is being held-up. He crawls across the floor in time for the masked robber to blow the store to pieces. That’s basically the gist of it. I don’t need to tell you how bad it is — you can see just from the outline.

And it didn’t get much better.

My third story was also a letdown. And my fourth and fifth. I have a folder full of my early failed attempts. Half-finished novels, half-finished stories, completed stories which would have been better off half-finished, poems, raps, children’s books — I wrote everything; and in those early exciting days I thought they were all amazing. Every single thing I wrote seemed to be a gift from above wrapped in gold. My ego was moon-sized and even when I detected flaws in my writing, I still believed it was greater than most.

In hindsight, they were so bad it’s almost unbelievable. I look back on that work and try to decipher the mindset that created them, but I don’t remember him.

I don’t remember me — not that version anyway. I was a terrible writer.

You’ve probably heard the phrase It’s darkest before the light.

Well, my writing world was pitch — fucking — black.


Now, over fifteen years later, I’d like to think I’ve improved somewhat. It took a while: partly my youth was a reason. I had a lot of dumb kid shit to get out of my writing system — immature ideas, juvenile humour, etc. I didn’t particularly care about school either, which meant by the time I grew serious about my craft I had to relearn grammar  and spruce up on my skills. On top of that, I read a lot of books on story construction, character creation, plot formation, etc. — soaking in a library’s worth of writing advice and learning through trial and error. For a long time my stories, in spite of my newly found wealth of knowledge, were still of low quality. It took months (maybe even years) of honing until I at least hit a level of competency. And I’m still in the apprenticeship stage: learning, growing, building toward a bigger future.

So if you’re doubting yourself right now, stop it. Everything you write might well be absolute trash. You can see it, your friends can see it, probably even your family — everyone knows you’re writing piles of dragon shit. But unlike singing, where perhaps you need an in-built aptitude and the right type of lungs or natural ability to hit the high notes, writing can be learned. Maybe not direct from teachers and manuals, but through constant repetition and revision, and also by approaching your work (and that of others) with a critical mind, you’ll naturally improve.

And even though some of your bad traits may linger on regardless, a lot of the time those traits are what define us — it’s the idiosyncrasies of our craft that make us stand out and gives us a unique voice.

Just don’t give up because you’ve written a few bullshit stories. That doesn’t mean you’re terrible. It means you’re learning. Babies don’t come out of the womb knowing how to walk and skate and play football. They pick it up as they go along. They practice. You’re doing the same. The only difference between someone who’s good and someone who’s terrible is that one of them kept on going. It’s imperative you practice, and lots.

It’s not acceptable to write a novel for three months, then take a year break and start again. How does that work? Every time you begin learning the process, you go away and the memories fade and your writing muscle weakens. You’ll take one step forward, two steps back and always fight an uphill battle. A week off here and there is fine, but never longer than a month. Train your writing the same way you would your body. If you do that, I guarantee you’ll stop producing subpar work or awkward prose.

One day, years later, you’ll look back on your early efforts and cringe. But you’ll also look at your current writing and realise how much you’ve progressed. And that’s when you’ll know all the hard work and tears has been worth it.

Just don’t ever give up. Keep fighting, keep writing, and you’ll make it.

Put your heart into your work and don’t stop until it stops.

That’s the only thing that really matters in this game.


Subscribe To Receive New Posts Straight To Your Inbox

Join 10,166 other subscribers


One Year Of Writing

One Year Of Writing
(The Challenge) 

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

—Karen Lamb

Last year on the third of June, two months after breaking things off with my agent, I had an epiphany. It’s an epiphany I’d had many times over the past fifteen years as a writer. Every month or two I’d have this groundbreaking lightning-to-the-head idea, and I’d tell myself This time I’ll follow through with it. But life didn’t quite work out like that.

For a start, so many things kept getting in the way — or, in other words: I allowed things to get in the way. Back in my early twenties I was married with two kids, holding down two part-time jobs on the other side of London (I lived in South; my jobs were in North West), which I soon followed up with a divorce and weekend dad duties — and going out three times a week to get drunk and pick up girls like a brainless teenager. I had so much going on in my life, and I took those excuses and ran with them. If I couldn’t be bothered to write, it’s because I had to buy a new outfit for that evening’s escapades. If I didn’t want to write, I blamed it on my kids — they’re hard work, after all. If the word-wizard didn’t have his hat on that morning, I’d blame tiredness from work or from watching too much porn. Whatever could be an obstacle, I let it be one.

And that’s all they ever were: excuses, lies to pin my laziness on. That way, when I got around to my school reunion, or a big family dinner, or whatever, and people asked me why I never made anything of myself, I could say: Well, where should I start . . .? and throw out a list of bullshit reasons to explain my endless procrastination. I could blame my kids, my hectic lifestyle, the break up of my marriage — or my marriage in general, as many relationships take away valuable alone time. I could invent any number of reasons why I never had time to pursue my dream. But the truth was, if I really wanted it, I could find the time to write. I certainly found the free hours to play football or go to the movies or call up girls or listen to music. When my kids fell asleep, I’d sit in my living room and watch TV all night. And although, especially in their early years, I felt exhausted — I still had enough spare hours in my evenings to write a novel. Even if it was only a single page a night. 

So when the epiphany hit me, I figured I should actually pay attention.

For once.


This time around will be different. That’s what I kept telling myself. I soaked in as much habit-forming literature as time would permit, noting the many psychological techniques one can use to trick their brain into being productive, and then I chose the ones which seemed to fit my personality best. I needed to build an unbreakable routine. Firstly, I changed my sleeping habits. For so long I’d head off to bed when my brain could no longer hack being awake; I’d slide under the covers at 12, or 1, or 3 in the morning, only to then sleep in, wake up around 11, and feel like shit all day. Most times I probably wrote two or three hundred words. Maybe a thousand on a good day. 

So I began going to bed in the early evenings around ten, or as soon as I felt tired. And then, in the morning, the moment I woke up — whether at 6:30 or 8:00 — before I thought about breakfast, or brushing my teeth, or anything like that, I’d flip open my laptop at the dining room table and I’d get to work. I started with short stories at first, just to build a regular routine and stick with it. Writing a novel can be draining; it’s a lot easier to bang out a short story. You spend three days or so and get instant gratification and satisfaction that you’re working. I kept this up for about eight weeks, writing a ridiculous amount of short stories — somewhere close to sixty, I think. My most important rule, however, was to never look back. Keep moving.

Even the stories I thought were great I dumped into my writing folder without so much as a second glance, then moved on to the next idea. As long as I kept writing, I knew I’d soon ingrain the habit. Neural pathways would form and solidify. I’d become accustomed to the routine of waking early and writing first thing.

And I did. I wrote it all: novels, stories, novellas, hit lists, ransom notes.

It wasn’t easy, though. In some ways, it was a nightmare.


At first, it seemed simple. The words flowed, and I worked in peace every morning — no emails, no Facebook notifications, no phone calls, no tweets, no one awake to bother me. This was a writer’s dream, and I was living it. Nothing had ever been this easy. But it turned out I was simply stuck in the honeymoon period. You might have noticed a similar attitude in people who try to quit smoking. The first few weeks are a breeze. It’s only later on, maybe a few weeks down the line, when something really stressful happens and they don’t have a cigarette that their true willpower kicks in. A lot fail at this hurdle.

But I didn’t want to fail. For a start, I’d been chronicling my word count day by day, and I hated the thought of leaving a blank space. After every session I wrote the number down and felt a weight off my shoulders. I had the rest of the day to relax, to hang out with my fiancée, to play the computer, watch TV, complete some editing work, whatever. The earlier I finished my writing, the freer my day.

And if my brain wasn’t working too well that morning, it didn’t matter. I’d force out two or three paragraphs and write extra the next day. I didn’t set myself an amount. My only stipulation is that I’d write something.

Then came the hard times. The obstacles I didn’t expect.


I began to exhaust myself — writing and editing throughout the day without taking breaks, eating, or rehydrating properly. And waking up every morning first thing didn’t help much, either. I was working seven days a week (and still am) without so much as a free weekend to let my mind breathe and switch off. In the end I contracted acute tonsillitis (even though I had a tonsillectomy as a child). I don’t know if the two things were connected: a lack of sleep/rest leading to illness, and yet they seemed to be — my immune system is usually strong as an ox. But still, even with the fever and the shivering and the trips to the hospital and the antibiotics and painkillers, I refused to give up my word count. Wiping the sweat from my body, I persevered and worked through the sickness. Later, I toiled through the tiredness and the long days and all of my dirty hangovers.

Over time I occasionally slacked on my morning routine, sometimes waiting until nine in the evening before I began writing. But it didn’t matter much anyway: in the space of a year, I missed only two days and that wasn’t my fault. I was away for the weekend in Leeds and I’d been meaning to write on my phone but I dropped it and the screen smashed.

Even still, that’s only two days out of a year. That means for 363 out of 365 (I wrote on Christmas morning and my birthday, too), I managed to write — sometimes half a page, sometimes twenty pages. And it’s something I’m proud of, in spite of the drain it’s had on me. The thing is, I’m due a break but I can’t do it. I’m scared to stop writing.

What if I take a week off and never get back into the routine?


Now that the twelve months are up, I plan to edit it all, save the good stuff, and send it off so I can get a new agent. Then start the process all over again. 

Maybe none of it will sell in the end. Maybe all of it will. The point is I set myself a goal — to write for one year straight — and I achieved it. In increments, through many sleepless nights and early mornings and tiring and draining afternoons, but I did it; I wrote piles of pages. Some of it was most likely terrible. It’s bound to be; no one writes perfectly amazing prose and plots every single day of their life. But in this case, quantity lead to an overall quality. By writing so often, and so close together, I realised mistakes in my writing as I went along. I could pinpoint issues from something I’d written and fix it in the next thing I wrote. It was like joining an advanced writing course, except I was the teacher too.

And every month felt like a success, especially when I counted up my words and saw how much I’d written that month. My average was about 55,000, the length of a short novel. Overall I wrote 669,145 words, which adds up to almost 3000 double-spaced A4 pages (according to this website). 

So if anyone out there doesn’t feel like they’ve been writing enough, try the ONE YEAR CHALLENGE (as I’ve just dubbed it). For one whole year dedicate yourself to your craft and see what happens. You’ll be amazed at how much you grow as a writer and how disciplined you become.

And in the long run, you’ll be the professional you need to be. Don’t wait for a contract to assign those extra hours to your craft. Be a pro and people will see you as one.

Now stop reading this and go get started on today’s two thousand words.

Or three hundred. Or one sentence.

Just as long as you’re doing it.


Subscribe To Receive New Posts Straight To Your Inbox

Join 10,166 other subscribers