Every week we feature a Q&A with one of our Crime Cymru authors so that they can tell us a little bit about themselves. This week, Matt Johnson talks about The Business of Writing.
Let’s talk about ‘The Business of Writing
Could you tell us about your writing routine?
I think it’s important not to let a pleasure become a chore. If you want to be an author, it’s important you enjoy it. If you imagine that persuading an agent to represent you and getting published are the toughest hurdles you may well be in for a shock. It only gets harder, believe me. After that first book hits the shelves, the second has to be at least as good, and so on. Each time you raise your own bar. Allow it to slide and readers will desert you.
I write on weekdays only and I try to meet a target of 1000 words in a day. That said, if I don’t write or don’t meet the target, I don’t beat myself up over it. It’s important, as I say, to keep it enjoyable.
I spend a lot of time researching. I may spend several hours fact checking to ensure a single paragraph or section of text is correct. It’s worth that time investment to do so.
Do you write longhand in notebooks, use a laptop or both?
I use a PC, a laptop and a digital recorder. Notebooks are ok for notes but, when I start writing, it’s definitely a keyboard for me. The digital recorder is for those moments when ideas come to you, sometimes as a series of words or perhaps in a more simple form. I record the idea, dictate it, and listen to it when I’m back at the computer. That way, I don’t forget!
How do you keep yourself motivated when your writing doesn’t flow?
I don’t worry about it. When it flows, it flows. Other times, do other things. I like to walk my dogs, do some gardening, even catch up on some housework. It’s at those times that the subconscious brain is at work and that idea or inspiration to get you writing will come.
Another idea is to write about something else. Do a blog post, sketch out some ideas, answer some hypothetical interview questions – everything helps.
Where do you find the time to write?
I’m retired now, and only work part-time. To be honest, I have nothing but admiration for those of you who can hold down a full-time job and find time to write.
How many times had you gone over and redrafted your book before sending it out? Betas? Edited?
Many, many times. A first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be written. I’ve learned how many aspiring writers want to avoid re-writing and want to get it write first time. I imagine the writer who can do that is something of a rarity. By the time I’m ready to submit a manuscript to my agent, it will probably be in its seventh or eighth iteration. Then, once an editor had gone to work on it, it will evolve several times more. This is an important point to consider when you start writing a novel, because what you first write, very rarely stays in that form. So, there is no excuse for a blank page or a writing freeze – just write something. It will never be wasted.
If you have an agent what attracted you to submit to the agent you signed with?
Your relationship with your agent is like a marriage. You will be working intimately with them. You will have lengthy discussions, disagreements, highs and lows. You need to be able to get on with them and to trust them. They have you back. That said, they must be prepared to work hard for you so it doesn’t matter how nice they are if they don’t do that.
If you have an agent, how long had you been writing and submitting before you got your agent?
I submitted my first novel to several agents in the form they requested. Very few responded, none with a wish to take me on. I therefore decided to self-publish using Amazon KDP. That resulted in my novel being read by an established author who recommended me to his agent. They got in touch. I was lucky!
Most writers think getting an agent is the golden key to traditional publication. Would you agree?
More than a key, I would say it is almost an essential if you wish to be published by one of the larger publishers. Small publishers will look at non-agented submissions but, in the main, the industry uses agents as their gatekeepers. Agents tend to only submit work they think will sell and which readers will like. If the writing is poor, the publishers don’t get to see it.
Beware though, both with regards to agents and publishers. There are a lot of sharks and charlatans out there looking to earn from your talents. This extends from agents who offer exploitative terms through to publishers who want you to pay for them to read, edit and publish your work. ALWAYS check out an agent or publisher you are thinking of signing with. Check their track record, who else they represent, who else they publish. And read what others have had to say about them.
And join a group like this, it may save you a lot of heart-ache in the future.
To find out more about Matt Johnson,visit his website
To buy some of Matt’s books, visit his amazon page
28th February 2020