1. Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.
2. Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph –
3. Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job.
4. Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.
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5. Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don’t go near the online bookies – unless it’s research.
6. Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg “horse”, “ran”, “said”.
7. Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It’s research.
8. Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.
9. Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven’t written yet.
10. Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – “He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.” But then get back to work.