Thursday, 26 December 2019

Quotes Quiz Answers

“Always laugh when you can. It is a cheap medicine.” Lord Byron

“The only good reason for swimming, so far as I can see, is to escape drowning.” Helen Cresswell

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Donald Wolfit

“Power brings a man luxuries but a clean pair of hands is seldom among them.” Robert Harris

“Hitch your wagon to a star or you will just stay where you are.” D H Lawrence

“James Bond has about as much to do with the intelligence profession as Billy Bunter has to do with public schools.” Stella Rimington

“What is the use of preaching the Gospel to men whose whole attention is concentration upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive.” William Booth

“Everybody judges from the point of view of his own inadequacy.” Stanley Middleton

“I measured love by the extent of my jealousy.” Graham Greene

“The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.” J M Barrie

“The art of writing is to explain the complications of the human soul with the simplicity that can be universally understood.” Alan Sillitoe

“Shyness in the young may be charming to look at but is painful to the one who suffers it.” Dorothy Whipple

Sunday, 22 December 2019

It's Christmas, so time for a Quiz

The Twelve Quotes of Nottsmas

A Quiz for Christmas – Who Said/Wrote It?

Can you match each quote to a former Notts resident?

The following quotes have come from, in no particular order, Graham Greene, Stanley Middleton, Helen Cresswell, Robert Harris, Stella Rimington, Donald Wolfit, Lord Byron, D H Lawrence, William Booth, J M Barrie, Dorothy Whipple and Alan Sillitoe, but who said/wrote what?

The Quotes:

“Always laugh when you can. It is a cheap medicine.” 

“The only good reason for swimming, so far as I can see, is to escape drowning.” 

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” 

“Power brings a man luxuries but a clean pair of hands is seldom among them.” 

“Hitch your wagon to a star or you will just stay where you are.” 

“James Bond has about as much to do with the intelligence profession as Billy Bunter has to do with public schools.” 

“What is the use of preaching the Gospel to men whose whole attention is concentration upon a mad, desperate struggle to keep themselves alive.” 

“Everybody judges from the point of view of his own inadequacy.” 

“I measured love by the extent of my jealousy.” 

“The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.” 

“The art of writing is to explain the complications of the human soul with the simplicity that can be universally understood.”

“Shyness in the young may be charming to look at but is painful to the one who suffers it.”

Answers will be revealed on Boxing Day. 

Friday, 13 December 2019

Election Reaction

I’m devastated. Hate has defeated hope. Labour has haemorrhaged working-class voters, seduced by three horrible words “Get Brexit Done!”. We’ve been here before, Cummings’ “Take back control” did the damage in 2016, showing the power of words and the impact of repeating them.

Labour is being criticised for betraying people on Brexit but a pro-Brexit stance, whilst backing a damaging outcome for Britain, would have split the party. With a mostly pro-Remain membership (and MPs) it could have been stronger on Remain but those traditional Labour seats would still have been lost. It goes back to those three badly constructed and deceitful, but brilliantly effective, words “Get Brexit Done” and the calculated collapse of the Brexit party.

The popularity of Jeremy Corbyn obviously didn’t help. The anti-Semitism in the labour party, and his reaction to it, damaged him more than the racism in the Conservative party (and racist language of its offensive leader) damaged the Tories. Now the right is on the rise. Not just here but across Europe where social democracy is in crisis. It’s ironic that that a politician who has campaigned against racism for decades has had his reputation shredded by a right-wing press intent on portraying him as a security threat. Yet in Scotland, a leader who has said that she would scrap trident and never go near a nuclear button has swept to victory. A leader whose position is not far from the “far left” that Corbyn’s Labour has been portrayed.

So what now? Brexit will be done. It’ll take time to get a deal, or not, with the EU but we will be out, either with a worse deal than we have now, one which will damage our lives in many ways and reignite Farage’s “it’s not what we voted for” brigade. Or a no deal Brexit, possible before 2020 is out, proving that the ERG have played a blinder. It looks like we’re screwed.

By 2024 the electoral boundaries will have been redrawn, making it easier for the Tories to win seats, and it will be harder for people to vote. The young, the poor, those not born in the UK, will be most affected by the further hoops to jump through and required ID, and there will be no votes for 16- and 17-year olds. As for PR, forget it, we'll still have a two party, first past the post system.

As for the young. They have been let down. Again. There will be no Green New Deal and the throwaway 2045 carbon neutral pledge will be futile. There will be no 'free at the point of use' higher education (or re-education for adults) - of course the Tories don’t want the people to be able to think! And in any case, the only jobs will be low-skilled as the slave labour of low paid, insecure jobs continues. High levels of employment and a strong economy might happen as we race to the bottom in a state of tax haven. But to what end if all the money is going to the few, the rest working several jobs to just about not manage, whilst their health suffers and public services are not properly funded to deal with it.   

I’ve not even mention Trump, that Scotland will continue to demand a second referendum on independence and, when denied one, will have their own and now vote to leave in a Catalonia style poll, or the impending troubles in Ireland. I’m struggling to find hope. Perhaps in the fact that 52% of voters did side against the dark side and that 1/3 of voters were prepared to vote for radial change. The fight goes on. Extinction Rebellion is going nowhere and the electorate are beginning to see Boris Johnson for the lying, self-centred coward he is.

To the vulnerable, the resisters, the guardians and protectors of the mind, I wish you well, and hope to see you on the other side of this. The flame cometh before the phoenix. Labour has time to rebuild. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

The General Election

Election Special 

Someone has put a poster up in the window of their flat. It reads: ‘Think of the most vulnerable people you know. Then vote.’

It’s a powerful statement and cuts to the heart of this general election. If you bring to mind the vulnerable in society: the millions in poverty, the widespread use of foodbanks, cuts to disability benefits, an underfunded NHS or the precarious state of the planet, you simply cannot vote for the Conservatives.

To make matters worse, Boris Johnson treats the working class with disdain. His comment that working class men are “likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless, ignorant and hopeless” sums up his view but that's just for starters (keep reading). Of course, it's well known that he's made offensive comments but it's usually the ones that play to the right that appear in the media. What you don't hear is what he's said about the working class as they are the voters he needs.

Nottingham is steeped in protest, with the roundheads, dissenters, luddites, reformers, chartists, miners and more standing up to the establishment. Perhaps inspired by the legend of Robin Hood, our writers also have a history of rebellion and being on the side of the people. One example is Lord Byron using his maiden speech in the House of Lords to speak up for the frame-breakers, another is William Booth, the Nottingham born Salvationist and author of Darkest England and the Way Out, who wrote:

“When women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight.
While children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight.
While men go to prison, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight.
While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, I’ll fight
I’ll fight to the very end!”

Many of the great Nottingham writers throughout the centuries would despair at the prospect of Johnson’s cruel Tories winning this election. That after nine years of austerity we could be getting a hard-right government that will slowly drag us out of a union set up to protect us. But then the Tories have never liked unions.

Byron once wrote: “Opinions are made to be changed – or how is truth to be got at.” And, as I write this, there is still hope. For efforts are being made to prevent the anti-Tory vote from splitting. Websites such as are offering advice on the best way to vote to keep out the Tories. This has seen people switch their voting intentions doing what needs to be done in order to kick the lying, cowardly piece of toerag out of Downing Street. Here’s how it all relates to Notts:

With a Labour majority of just 441 and a 69.8% Leave vote, the Tories may capture Ashfield, a constituency with some of the most deprived areas in Notts. Lee Anderson is the Tory candidate. He’s the guy who said that anti-social people should be put in tents and then faked a random doorstep encounter where he was caught on mic telling his friend what to say. Anderson is a liability and may lose votes to the Brexit candidate Martin Daubney, a former editor of The Sun’s  They’ll face a tough challenge from Independent Jason Zodrozny who you might remember running for Police and Crime Commissioner. With the Lib Dems coming 5th last time, it’s not surprising that that both the GetVoting and Remainunited websites are advising people to Vote for Labour’s Natalie Fleet. If she’s to win, not only will she need many would-be Green and Lib Dem voters to back her, she’ll need to convince Labour leavers that this election is about much more than Brexit. The anti-establishment stance is strong in Ashfield but many see the EU as the establishment when the true danger comes from the Eton elite.
Vote for Labour’s @Nataliefleet

With John Mann going the House of Lords, Labour’s 4,852 majority is being threatened in this leave-leaning constituency. Labour did quite well in the local elections so there hope they’ll hang on. Labour’s Keir Morrison is the only candidate to vote for if you want to keep out the Brexit Party and the Conservatives’ Brendan Clarke-Smith, who says the priority is to ‘Get Brexit Done!’. Clarke-Smith used to work in Romania as the Head of an International School. The lie that Brexit can be done by January 31st needs calling out. Johnson’s withdrawal agreement is only phase one of years of negotiations, all to be done after Johnson pays the EU over £30 billion in January, and the no deal risk remains, it’s only delayed. The message must be ‘Don’t Get Done by Brexit!’ And don’t get me started on the years of playing lapdog to Donald Trump as a damaging trade deal with the USA drags on and on.
Vote for Labour’s @MorrisonKeir 

Another tough seat to call with the Conservatives the current favourites. Anna Soubry won here last time by 863 votes and has since left to become leader of The Independent Group for Change. She is standing again, hoping to snag the remain vote. Despite the Lib Dems standing down for her, Soubry has little chance as Remainers are turning to Labour and their promise for a People’s Vote. So much so that Gina Miller’s website have changed their advice from ‘Vote Soubry’ to ‘No Advice’. Labour’s Greg Marshall will have to work hard to win here though. The Brexit Party were the largest party in the Euro elections and their lack of a candidate will help the Tories as would a strong Green vote. Kat Boettge would make a good MP but Green voters need to lend their vote to Labour on this occasion. Much will depend on Beeston’s Marshall getting his strong message for protecting public services across to the voters. Come on the people of Broxtowe, vote for hope and not more of the same. Broxtowe needs a new party and a new MP.
Don’t split the vote, go for Labour’s @Greg4Broxtowe

Vernon Coaker is well-liked in Gedling and won here two years ago with a 4,694 majority. Despite his popularity and strong record as an MP it’s another close call. 55.6% voted Leave and the Brexit Party were clear winners at the Euro election. The Brexit Party’s Graham Hunt believes the mood to ‘leave’ is as strong as ever in Gedling, and the Tory, former Oxford law student Tom Randall, will be hoping he’s right. Coaker may win enough leave voters to remain MP, the constituents would be doing themselves a disservice not to keep him.
Vote for Labour’s @Vernon_Coaker

This is the Conservative Party’s to lose. Ben Bradley’s 1,057 majority may be slim but the 70.9% leave vote and The Brexit Party’s lack of a candidate could return him. The only person with a chance to stop this happening is Labour’s Sonya Ward, a former youth worker who also worked in the NHS. Ward will take heart from Labour winning the latest mayoral election with the Tories back in 4th place. When Bradley - who voted remain - won in 2017 it was the first time Labour had not held Mansfield since 1923. If Labour are to win back Mansfield it’s unlikely to be done by trying to convince leavers that remaining is the better option, it will be by showing them what a Labour government can do for them. There’s been anger here directed at the EU as well as the Conservative government making it a key seat, one which has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the county. Boris Johnson has written that the UK's poorest communities, like some of those in Mansfield, are made-up of 'chavs,' 'burglars,' 'drug addicts,' and 'losers'. if there’s any justice he won’t be welcome.   

Vote for Labour’s @Sonya_Ward

The safest seat in Notts as far as the Tories are concerned. Robert Jenrick, a Notts resident of six years, will win here unless there’s a major shock. Jenrick serves as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. He consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits and voted against many measures to prevent climate change. James Baggaley is the candidate best placed to pull off a surprise victory and he deserves your vote.
Vote Labour’s @JamesBaggaley

Nottingham East
Labour’s Nadia Whittome is rightly the favourite to win and the 23-year-old former care worker has said that she will only be accepting a "worker's wage" if she becomes MP donating half her wage to good causes. Chris Leslie won last time with the largest majority in Notts and he’s standing again. Leslie left to team up with Anna Soubry but he’s hoping to eat into the Labour vote. He’s even using Labour’s colours on his campaign leaflets. The better Leslie does, the more danger there is that Labour will lose this seat, but it won’t be to Leslie.
Vote for Labour’s @NadiaWhittome

Nottingham North
Two years ago, this seat had the lowest turnout in the county - just 57.3% compared to the national figure of 69.1%. Alex Norris should win here for Labour but voter complacency and a high leaver turnout could be a concern so make sure your vote is cast.
Vote Labour’s @AlexNorrisNN

Nottingham South
Lilian Greenwood is one of the county’s best MPs and she will be hoping to win for a fourth time for Labour. In a majority leave voting constituency, professional fundraiser Marc Nykolyszyn (Tory) and The Brexit Party’s Julian Carter (the self-styled ‘Robin Hood of Brexit’ WTF?) will be hoping to challenge.
Vote for @LilianGreenwood

With Ken Clark gone and calling Johnson ‘extreme’ and Brexiteer Ruth Edwards standing instead, this seat could be up for grabs in a remain-voting constituency. However, there is likely to be a split in the Remain vote, letting the Tories back in. The Lib Dem and Labour candidates are polling similar numbers. Tactical voting, such as the advice given on, is telling people to Vote Labour. Their candidate is the former Raleigh worker Cheryl Pidgeon and two years ago she slashed Clark’s majority in half. There will need to be some large-scale tactical voting to beat off the cruel Conservatives in Rushcliffe but it’s achievable.
Vote for Labour’s @cheryl_pidgeon

Mark Spencer is a loyal Tory. He was pro Remain when Cameron then May told him to be, then pro Leave when May then Johnson told him to be. Spencer is, unsurprisingly, the government’s Chief Whip. He’s a brash, heartless glutton, a defender of fracking and the cruel benefits system. Spencer caused offence with his comments regarding a local jobseeker with learning difficulties who was left without food or electricity after being four minutes late for a Jobcentre appointment. Spencer has consistently voted against raising welfare benefits (even in line with prices) and has voted many times for a reduction in spending on welfare. Sherwood deserves better than this and has a chance to remove Johnson’s whip. Standing in his way is Labour’s Jerry Hague, a candidate for real change. The alternative to Labour is more of the same and an awful right-wing MP.
Don't Vote for Mark Spencer (above). Vote for Labour’s @jerryhague01 instead.

We need to talk about Boris.
This election is the most important of my lifetime and I must turn to Boris Johnson. Not the "cuddly," "funny," “he lies but I like him,” media-friendly Boris, the real man, in his own words:

Boris Johnson is a racist, writing that seeing a "bunch of black kids" used to make him "turn a hair" and run away. Boris Johnson is Islamophobic, writing that Muslim women look like “bank-robbers” and “letterboxes”. Boris Johnson is homophobic, criticising “tank-topped bumboys”. And he dismisses the environmental concerns of the young. Not only did he fail to turn up to the leaders’ debate on climate change, he voted against measures to prevent climate change and, in April, he said he was sympathetic to the aims of Extinction Rebellion but described the young climate change activists as “smug” and told them to “lecture” China instead.

Boris Johnson is a misogynist, calling Cameron a “girly swot” and Corbyn a “big girl’s blouse”, and his advice to a man on how to best handle his female publisher? “Pat her on the bottom and send her on her way”. In criticising men, he spoke of their “reluctance or inability to take control of his woman and be head of a household.” He added: “Something must be found, first, to restore women’s desire to be married.” He also labelled single mums as “irresponsible,” but won’t say how many children he has!

30% of the Conservative candidates are women, 31% of Lib Dems candidates are women, 53% of the Labour candidates are women. 

Boris Johnson hates the poor, saying that “500,000 women have chosen to marry the state” but that men were “responsible for a social breakdown which is costing us all … and which is producing a generation of ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children who in theory will be paying for our pensions”. He also hates the working class, writing that the “modern British male is useless” and working-class men are “likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless, and perhaps claiming to suffer from low self-esteem brought on by unemployment”. He went on to say that the UK's poorest communities are made-up of "chavs", "'burglar", "'drug addicts" and "losers".

Only this year Johnson said that spending police budgets on historical child abuse cases was "spaffing money up the wall" and, on the NHS, he has written that that free healthcare should be only for "those who are genuinely sick, and for the elderly." He added that "if people have to pay" for NHS services, "they will value them more" but since becoming PM he's more careful with his words, avoiding difficult interviews and trotting out slogans written by Dominic Cummings, the Brexit mastermind, who can be heard in this short video saying what he really thinks of the Tories.

We are the 5th richest country in the world and yet millions are forced to use foodbanks, and since the Tories took power homelessness has gone up 165%. Something is badly wrong. I urge you, in this festive season, to think of the most vulnerable in society when you cast your vote on the 12th of December.

John Bishop once asked Jeremy Corbyn, “If you get into number 10, what's the one thing that you would make sure happens?”
Corbyn took a second to think, then replied: “That nobody is homeless.”

Ignore the right-wing media. Listen to your heart and your conscience.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

New Rebel Writers' Plaques

#rebelnotts, an independent art project promoting Nottinghamshire's infamous rebel writers, are putting up silver plaques across the city centre to showcase three of our rebel writers, Sillitoe, Lawrence and Byron, with quotes alongside their images. 

The Alan Sillitoe plaques are to be placed at Richmond House, Canal Street; The Castle Pub, Castle Road; The Terrace, Broad Street and The Angel, Stoney Street. With Lord Byron plaques at The Trip To Jerusalem, Brewhouse Yard; Byron's House, St James' Street; The Bell Inn, Angel Row and Zara's, Pelham Street. And D H Lawrence plaques at Brass Monkey, High Pavement; NTU, Goldsmith Street; The Nottingham Council House, Long Row and Five Leaves Bookshop, Swann's Yard.

There’s also a couple of plaques featuring all three writers, one at Nottingham Train Station, Station Street and the other near Five Leaves Bookshop, Swann’s Yard.

More at

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

But I Know This City!

But I Know This City!
Saturday 23rd November.

A free performance. 100 people celebrating the 50th anniversary of B S Johnson’s book in a box ‘The Unfortunates’.

‘The difficulty is to understand without generalization, to see each piece of received truth, or generalization, as true only if it is true for me, solipsism again, I come back to it again, and for no other reason. In general, generalization is to lie, to tell lies.’

As part of the Being Human Festival 2019, 100 readers are becoming B S Johnson, spreading out across the city of Nottingham in bookshops, pubs, churches, homes and a host of atmospheric nooks and crannies. Come and explore  the city centre, visiting up to 25 different (and often highly unusual) locations, to piece together this deeply moving and evocative work.

‘I did not contribute anything but my laughter, as I remember, and it was obvious from the other eight or ten there listening that they expected him to dominate like this, that he could be relied on to perform brilliantly, and strangers were not expected to contribute, far less interrupt him.’

The book’s 27 chapters can be read in any order, apart from the first and last, so plan your own route using the maps provided. You can begin the event at any time from 10am through to 3pm in the Lounge, at Broadway Cinema, with readings of the First chapter happening every half an hour. The Final chapter will be read from 3.30pm through to 10pm, also on the half hour.

‘To Tony, the criticism of literature was a study, a pursuit, a discipline of the highest kind in itself: to me, I told him, the only use of criticism was if it helped people to write better books.’

B S Johnson tragically took his own life at the age of forty. ‘The Unfortunates’ is an experimental work by an author who always wrote as if it mattered. The novel was never just a vehicle for linear storytelling, which Johnson saw as irrelevant, it was a form in which truth could be written, and to do this he wrote from the margins, uncomfortable in the mainstream. Johnson's book in a box is more a memoir than a novel, an exploration of memory, an enquiring melancholy. It’s Saturday afternoon in Nottingham as we hear the internal monologue of a football reporter about to churn out his report. This week’s match is being played in the city where his friend Tony had worked before his death from cancer. The reporter remembers Nottingham and his late friend. These memories have no structure and are randomly sieved through for meaning.

'I fail to remember, the mind has fuses.'

Andy Barrett, the man behind the event, has been meeting all 100 readers in preparation for the 23rd. He says, “The readers are a real cross-section of the Nottingham community, although what unites them all is a genuine interest in literature and the city that they live in. The venues have all been chosen to connect as much as possible to the chapters either thematically or geographically. One chapter is read in a car, another in a darkened porch of St. Mary’s Church, and the tenderest chapter will be heard in a living room next to a roaring fire.”

‘…hanged men, I could not determine whether they were murderers, deserters, traitors, or unlucky, just unlucky, unfortunates.’

Professor James Moran, from the University of Nottingham’s School of English, says, “Using site-specific performance is a tremendous way of encouraging a new generation of readers to engage with this relatively unsung writer”.

‘When everything was moving for him, just when he had achieved what he had always wanted to do, so I believe, the rotting, the whole of a man’s rotting telescoped into two years, was it, from then, less than two years, to what end, ah, with what point?’

Sandeep Mahal, Director of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, adds, “A delightful celebration of the avant-garde novel, But I Know This City, will not only bring to life a book with a strong connection to Nottingham, but also introduce people to experience one of the most powerful explorations of human memory and grief I’ve come across.”

‘And Tony talked calmly about all the fear the word caused, how everyone dreaded it, but only because of its mystery, he insisted, this was, that once you faced it and understood it and knew that eighty percent of the cases would be cured, were cured, either by surgery or by radiotherapy, then it was quite acceptable, was that the word he used?’

The map and timetable for the readings is available online at and leaflets are available at Broadway and other venues in Nottingham. I’ll see you there.

Monday, 16 September 2019

The non-advice column

Author Steven Cooper on Advice for Writers: where to go (and not to go).

The Non-Advice Column
Post by Steven Cooper

Advice and expertise are two different things. It will be easier on all of us if we just accept that. Anyone can give you advice. Ask your mother. Or your Aunt Betty. Or Cha-Cha Marie, your chihuahua. I’m guessing your chihuahua is not an expert on writing fiction, and I’m not all that sure about your mother or her sister, Betty. They’re lovely people, of course, but when you ask them to give you feedback on your manuscript, remember that unless your mom is Anne Lamott you’ll likely get a lot of opinion and not a lot of expertise.

Everyone has an opinion, and opinion often comes out in the form of friendly advice. Writers don’t have a lot of friends, so forget friendly advice. Especially from your “friends” on social media. This is where so many new writers turn for help. Every day I find all kinds of writing advice on Facebook and Twitter. The twitterati is practically gushing with all the Dos and Don’ts of writing fiction. Write what you know! Do sex scenes! Don’t do sex scenes! Adverbs are evil! Dead body on the first page! No dead body on the first page! First person! Third person! Never write in present tense! Limit yourself to 2 POV only! No, 3! No, 4! Write as many POVs as you want! Your editor won’t care.

Your editor will care. Your editor will care very much if your writing is completely informed by what you learn from entirely unvetted sources on social media. Social media can be a swirling pit of bad advice. Avoid it. That’s my non-advice advice.

My other non-advice advice is to find someone who is further along in the publication process who you feel might have some bona fide expertise to offer. This might sound like a daunting proposition, but this is where you must get off your butt and network. This is when you go to writer’s conferences and workshops and build relationships with people (real people, not twitter or FB handles). This is how it works. You listen to people on panels. You go talk to those people. You exchange business cards. Now you’re in business. You’re building a network of people whom you might be able to trust with your writing questions. Some will prove to be worthy, others not. But you don’t need an entire glossary of experts to guide you. 

I know that writer’s conferences and workshops can be expensive. Do you know what aren’t? Books. You’ll find some of the best expertise on writing in books about writing. There are heaps of them. Some great, some not so great. I can’t possibly publish a list here of all the greats, but I’ll suggest a good batch to start with:

Stephen King, On Writing

Anne Lamott, bird by bird

Ursula K Le Guin, Steering the Craft

Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel

Colum McCann, Letters to a Young Writer

Strunk & White, Elements of Style*

William Zinsser, On Writing Well

*this is your Bible, treat it as such. You will need to refer back to it often. What do you mean you don’t have it?

So, now that you’re done reading the batch above, I have another suggestion: read, read, and read some more. Find a book by your favorite writer. Read it three times. That’s as good, maybe as effective, as meeting your favorite writer and asking for advice. The proof is on the paper. You want to know how it’s done? Observe how it’s done. Over and over. The more you read, the more will resonate. Every book is like a lecture on writing. Even the bad ones. The bad ones tell you what not to do. Don’t read too many bad ones, though. They will make you angry that bad books get published.

Here’s my final piece of non-advice advice: Maybe this isn’t the time for you to worry about expertise. Maybe you need some more time to improvise. Who am I to crush your spontaneity? I am nobody. Go wild. Take an adventure. Get that stuff out of your brain and onto the paper. Put your dead body on the third page and your sex scene on the first. Sprinkle adverbs liberally (Stephen King will vomit because he famously hates adverbs) then kill them just as liberally. Write in first-person present tense, or past tense, or future tense. Who the f-ck cares? The point is: just write. Worry about seeking expertise when you’re done with the first draft. Seriously. Just write that shit down. Asking for expertise or, God forbid, advice before you’ve written a first draft is just procrastination by any other name. If you’re just looking to procrastinate, go have lunch with your mother. Or take Cha-Cha Marie for a walk. Give my love to Aunt Betty. 

This article first appeared on the Crime Thriller Hound website.

Former investigative reporter Steven Cooper’s latest Gus Parker and Alex Mills novel, Valley of Shadows, is out now.