Kobo Writing Life

Advice From Scottish Writers: Just Get A Cat

 

Any Scottish authors out there? It’s Book Week Scotland, so we’re taking this opportunity to share some sage wisdom from Scottish writers.

Create lovable characters

“These characters [. . .] have somehow become part of my world, just as I believe they have become part of the world of quite a number of readers in many countries. That, incidentally, gives me the greatest possible pleasure—the knowledge that we are all linked by our friendship with a group of fictional people. What a pleasant club of which to be a member!”
― Alexander McCall Smith, The Importance of Being Seven

Focus on the story

“It has always seemed to me that so long as you produce your dramatic effect, accuracy of detail matters little. I have never striven for it and I have made some bad mistakes in consequence. What matter if I hold my readers?”
— Arthur Conan Doyle

Practice your craft

“The Three Ps: practice, practice, practice. Writing is like everything else: the more you do it the better you get. Don’t try to perfect as you go along, just get to the end of the damn thing. Accept imperfections. Get it finished and then you can go back. If you try to polish every sentence there’s a chance you’ll never get past the first chapter. [. . .] Some people have just got it and some haven’t. Although, I think it can be brought out of some people so it is worthwhile joining writers’ groups or studying it. If a creative writing course produces one writer who wouldn’t have been a writer otherwise then it’s worthwhile. You kind of know if you are a writer or not. The real secret is to do it because you love writing rather than because you love the idea of being a Writer. . . ”
― Iain Banks, The Guardian

Read!

“The first piece of advice I would give any writer is to read a lot and to read widely. Firstly you start to realize what’s out there and what isn’t out there. Publishers are looking for stories that haven’t been told before. Reading other people can also improve your own writing. I love reading poetry even though I wouldn’t think of writing it. A great poet can say in two lines what it takes me a whole novel to express. If I’ve learned from any kind of writing, it’s poetry – and the lesson is concision. What can you leave out and the reader will still get the message?”
― Ian Rankin

But not too much!

“Folk said he had once been a scholar and written books and learned and learned till his brain fair softened and right off his head he’d gone and into the poorhouse asylum.”
— Lewis Grassic GibbonSunset Song (A Scots Quair, #1)

Always be prepared to take notes

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.”
― Robert Louis StevensonEssays of Robert Louis Stevenson

Record what you read

“Every man should keep minutes of whatever he reads. Every circumstance of his studies should be recorded; what books he has consulted; how much of them he has read; at what times; how often the same authors; and what opinions he formed of them, at different periods of his life. Such an account would much illustrate the history of his mind.”
— James Boswell, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides

Choose your friends wisely

“Never trust people who’ve only got one f**king book.”
— Billy Connolly

 You should probably get a cat

“If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work . . . the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp . . . The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.”
— Muriel Spark (A Far Cry from Kensington)