I'm delighted to welcome author Gary Murning to the blog today! Gary's first novel, If I Never, was just released last year. I'm particularly happy that Gary shares my view on writer's block, a term which (I'm sorry!) never fails to irritate me. So... welcome Gary!
Tell us about your journey to publication.
In many ways, my story is quite typical. I wrote for many years before achieving publication. I started writing seriously when I was about twenty and whilst I didn't expect anything to happen overnight, I don't think I could ever have truly envisaged it taking quite as long as it did.
It was a long haul and I'm often asked what kept me going. The simple answer, I suppose, is that you get encouragement along the way. I came close to publication/representation many times -- so I knew by those reactions that you I at least have a chance. I kept rolling the dice, so to speak.
Nevertheless, acceptance came when I least expected it. The recession was upon us, If I Never had been submitted many months before and almost forgotten about, and I decided to just work on something that I'd been wanting to do for quite a while -- a large project that I'd been putting off. I'd made up my mind not to think about submitting anything else until after the recession was out the way... and then I heard from Tom Chalmers at Legend Press; he liked If I Never and wanted to discuss it with me.
What is your writing routine like? Do you have a certain number of words you strive for each day?
Yes. I always like to write 1000 words a day, five days a week. I start at about 9 AM and my 1000 words take about one hour to one and a half hours, depending on how demanding that particular scene is. Once that's done I'll do a little editorial/proofing work before moving on to other aspects of writing -- researching future projects etc.
Have you ever encountered 'writer's block'? If so, how do you get past it? If not, how do you keep things flowing?
I always end up getting in trouble when I discuss writer's block! I'm afraid I'm not all that keen on the term -- or, rather, the obsession that some writers seem to have with it. I never intend to sound impatient when the subject comes up... but invariably it seems I do!
The reason is, I think, that, quite simply, I love writing -- even when it's a pain in the behind. I approach it very much as I would any other kind of work. I plan and prepare, stick to my tried and tested routine, and do my damnedest not to allow anything to distract me. Not always easy, I'll admit, but working this way I've never experienced writer's block -- in all of my 20 years writing novels.
That's not to say that it's always easy, of course. Sometimes I find (though this doesn't happen that often these days) that I have to write three pages of not very good stuff in order to get to where I need to be. And I think that's possibly the best piece of advice I can give. Don't be afraid to write a few thousand words of rubbish. Free associate on paper, if necessary, but don't just walk away from the computer thinking "I'll try again tomorrow". It's fatal, in my opinion.
How do you balance your writing with your promotional efforts?
Fairly well, I think. It's been a pretty steep learning curve -- and I did work myself a little too hard to begin with -- but now I think I have it about right. I usually spend a couple of hours, 5 PM to 7 PM, networking online, making new contacts, doing interviews and, also, having a little fun. Something I feel is really important. Interacting with people, talking about books in general and other things, these for me are perhaps the best ways to promote what you do.
What was one thing you wish you knew before you started down the path to publication? What would you tell other aspiring writers who hope to be published?
Funnily enough, this is something I've just been discussing another interview. My answer was that I wish I'd known I wasn't deluding myself! And thinking about it again, now, I still think that would have been nice -- especially early on, when I was more prone to self-doubt than I am now!
And following on from that, I think I'd have to say to those aiming for publication that this is perhaps the biggest obstacle they will face; self belief, or, in some cases, the lack thereof. You have to do conquer that, as much as any of us can, and know that, generally speaking, good, published writers aren't generally speaking born. Whatever some people might tell you, the vast majority of us don't pop out of the womb brimming with talent. We develop our abilities over time and if we allow self-doubt to hold us back we'll never realise our full potential.
The one piece of advice that really kept me moving forward when I first started out came from my then literary hero, Stephen King. King insisted that anyone who wrote just 100 words a day, every day, would, with time, become a good writer. This made it seem incredibly attainable and definitely contributed to my ultimately securing a publishing contract.
Thank you, Gary!
Gary is a novelist living in the northeast of England. His work, largely mainstream fiction, focuses on themes that touch us all — love, death, loss and aspiration — but always with an eye to finding an unusual angle or viewpoint. Quirky and highly readable, his writing aims to entertain first and foremost. If he can also offer a previously unfamiliar perspective or insight, all the better.
Gary was born with a form of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and whilst he has never thought of himself as a “disabled writer” it is nevertheless fair to say that his disability has in many ways contributed to his fairly unique perspective. If you’d like to know more about SMA, please click here. His first novel, If I Never, is published by Legend Press and is now available from all major bookstores.
You can order Gary's book from Amazon by clicking here. Electronic version for Kindle and other e-readers also available here. For more information and two free sample chapters, visit Gary William Murning Online. You can also connect with Gary's Twitter and his Facebook fan page.