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Adam Marek

Adam Marek is the award-winning writer of two short story collections – Instruction Manual For Swallowing and The Stone Thrower – both published by Comma Press. He won the 2011 Arts Foundation Short Story Fellowship, and was shortlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. His stories have appeared in many magazines, including Prospect and The Sunday Times Magazine, and in many anthologies including The Best British Short Stories 2011 and 2013.

Adam’s Top Tips:

  • Write every day. Set a time that’s yours for writing every day, including weekends. If you write at the same time every day, it’ll become habit after a month or two and your creative brain will be ready to go when you sit down. It also means you won’t have to have the argument with yourself about whether you’re too tired to do it or if you should eat/watch TV/exercise/snooze/feed the children before you write. It will also train your partner/children/friends to respect this time and leave you alone, so you don’t need to justify it to them. Even if you can only allocate 30 mins a day, it counts and you’ll get stuff done. Words will accumulate. If you can type fast and get into a flow, you can knock out 500 words in 30 minutes – and some of them might be great.

  • You’ve got to write A LOT. I mean, hundreds of thousands of words before you start to find what makes your writing different from everyone else’s, and for you to make unconscious the dozens of separate skills that must be employed simultaneously to make fiction that affects your reader. Know that your own work will disappoint you for the first couple of years – Ira Glass says it perfectly here.

  • Always have your reader in mind. If you’re writing for yourself, you’ll be lazy. The most important part of any communication – including fiction – is the response you get from the reader. Your job is to give them an experience, not just to relate a bunch of events occurring over a period of time.

  • Listen to audiobooks. It’ll train your ear to good writing, and you’ll able to fit more reading into your busy schedule – when you’re doing the dishwasher, driving, whatever.

  • Learn to touch-type. There are a few very practical reasons why, and one that’s a theory of my own. Firstly, it’s much faster than banging away with two fingers. Secondly, if you make a career of writing, you’ll write millions of words over a lifetime – your fingertips will hit your keys many millions of times. Imagine the state your index fingers will be in if they’ve born the force of all that work. You’ll be working with a pair of arthritic Twiglets. Spread the load, use 10 fingers. Thirdly, have you noticed how when you’re making something up or remembering something, you look in different directions? It’s how the police can tell if you’re remembering an event or using your imagination. Writing involves a blend of memory and imagination, and therefore looking up and down and left and right. If you have to look at your keyboard to work, you can’t access different parts of your brain while you’re actually typing. If you can look anywhere while typing, or even close your eyes, you’ll get into a state of flow much more readily, and you won’t get the horrible back and neck problems that come from drooping your head all day (P.S. this is just my own personal theory – it’s awaiting verification).

  • Scrapbook and note-take like you’re addicted to it. Use physical books or boxes of papers or – my preference – an online cloud service like Evernote to record every idea that floats through your consciousness every day, every article that sparks your imagination, photos you dig, weird stuff you hear people talking about on the train. Stockpile everything – it’ll form the compost that you grow your best ideas from.

Adam’s Recommended Books: