"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Fixing The Novel

Last couple of days I’ve been trying to fix the end of a novel I’ve been working on. I’m tired and frustrated because I keep thinking everything will repair itself by magic. Trouble is, I know in my heart that’s not going to happen and I’m getting depressed knowing that I will have to approach the ending with a lot more focus and concentration.

The whole thing is silly because I know that’s all I have to do: FOCUS, but I can’t bring myself to work properly and I guess it’s out of fear. Partly fear of knowing I’m almost at the end, therefore the wonder of creation will soon stop. But also fear of the amount of work I’ll have to put in to make the ending work well.

Sometimes this just happens. Pleasure becomes work and you just have to grit your teeth and get on with the graft. (It’s what a lot of us have to do every day from 9 to 5.)

It’s annoying because I’ve enjoyed writing all of the chapters up to this point. About 70,000 words have been fun. But now I realize that the ending won’t work unless I add/edit/rewrite about 10,000 words, make sure everything is in the right order and all the character arcs are resolved.

So this is what I’ve decided to do:

Two things.

ONE. Character Arcs.

I have made a list of all the principal characters and written a one sentence description of how their story completes at the ending of the book. There are about a dozen character arcs I need to resolve in this last section. Daunting enough but at least it’s something to be getting on with and I’m not tearing my hair out and sobbing because I can’t think of anything else to do.

TWO. Plotting Again

I have lots of short sections at the end that I knew I would have to return to and sort out. Some of the events are in the wrong order and some linking scenes are not there at all at the moment. I’ve decided the best way forward with the last three or four chapters is to number the sequences and, on a separate sheet, reorder the paragraphs into the most logical flow. That way I can see what I have and also, what I don’t have.

All I need now is to choose a time when I can raise the necessary enthusiasm to do these two activities. That’s the sticking point.

Because the other problem I have is what I call “fiction fatigue”. Basically I’ve had enough. Getting to grips with the end of the story yesterday afternoon for instance, I kept falling asleep and when that wasn’t happening I had a niggling sense that reading back what I already had was simply too hard.

I’ve spent probably four or five months writing this story - not including the years of misfires before this point - and really, I want it to be over. But I can’t be bothered to work on it - even though I know that if I don’t I may put it down and not touch it again for another age. Neither of which I want. Catch 22: I want to finish the story but I don’t want to do the work to make that happen!

I’m sure all of this sounds petty and stupid, especially to a non writer who would likely be thinking, What’s the problem, ya big pussy, stop complaining, and get on with it!

And I probably will.


I just wanted to write this piece first so that when a similar circumstance happens to you, you will know you’re not alone. It’s all part of the process.

Over the years - and the novels - I’ve discovered this point comes every time. There is always a period during which the novel is nearly done but there are niggling things to do, subplots to tidy up, scenes to link, characters to develop or delete. To be honest it’s my least favorite time and leaves a sour taste in my mouth at the end of every novel I complete.

Trouble is, unless I push through this process, this story is never going to see the light of day and get read.

I’m starting to believe that the writing process is something wonderful to begin and that allowing your stories to develop and become real is the fun part. But that ending, tidying and polishing is the nasty part. The work part.

Ah well, the sooner I get to grips with the ending the better.

I want the finale of the novel to be satisfying and make sense and I can’t do that until the story lives up to my own nitpicky standards. I have to be sure the resolutions are all logical and smart. I’m sure I’ll get there.

By the way, the novel is a thriller called HERESY. So, if you see it on sale soon you’ll know I got past this angst and completed the book to my satisfaction.

If you don’t see the book anywhere or I never mention it again, it’s probably in my bottom drawer.

Thanks for reading, And wish me luck.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Comin' Round The Bend


If writers are not owed a living, how the heck do we survive?

Following on from last week’s newsletter when I mentioned the WGA writers’ strike, Bill Maher summed up the issues by proclaiming that screen and TV writers shouldn’t expect a guaranteed income. He said that the nature of the industry was so hit and miss that nobody who makes entertainment shows should feel secure.

Trouble is - and I can vouch for this personally - TV and movie producers use this attitude to screw writers, all the time. They make them write on spec, for nothing, for as long as possible, letting you know you have no power or influence over a project until the very last second, until they realize the project can go no further without your enthusiastic involvement.

That’s the free market, Bill says. That’s how it works. The actors and tech people are on the same deal. When you want to work in the arts, you have to accept that living a life of uncertainty and potential poverty is the trade-off for success, if and when it comes.

Basically the system is unfair but it keeps out the wannabes, the people with no talent, and those who aren’t committed enough to stay the course.

I understand the theory and to some extent the arguments but seeing as the digital entertainment industry is one of the fastest growing employment sectors on the planet, it might be time to consider a change in attitudes towards artists in general.

Of course everyone is concerned about AI. Will the film industry start using machines to make movies? The answer is simple. That ship has sailed. The music, movie, video game, and publishing industries have been using machines, robots, and AI for the last twenty years. Everything we do is already controlled and run by our electronic overlords and we, the people, are probably the last to realize the extent.

So it makes perfect sense to me that writers want to get paid, and would like their futures to be protected.

Curiously, when we study the strike, we discover it’s not the studios that are the problem. They’re happy to pay writers. Of course they are.
Because they know writers are, and always will be, essential, even when we use AI as virtual assistants.

No, it’s the streaming services that don’t want to cough up. They want to profit from playing the films and TV shows but they don’t like having to guarantee paying the creators of all that product.

Same with companies like Amazon and Spotify. These monoliths are constantly trying to pay fewer royalties to artists, writers, and creators - and they certainly don’t want to be tied to agreements when the future is so uncertain.

Think about it this way.

We’re creating a world where everything is synthetic.

Digital media rules, and it makes a lot of money. But it’s totally ephemeral. No books and movies and music actually exist anymore. It’s all computer code that’s used to generate the livings of the hundreds of thousands of people who create media content. If we lost the power to generate electricity, our world would be nothing but a heaving mass of humanity and little to show for itself: a planet that is basically a blue ball in space supporting nearly eight billion people with not enough resources to go around.

We live in a Fake World.

Fake music, fake shows, fake artists, fake images, fake words, and of course the thing that started it all, fake news.

Trouble is, and the robots were the first to understand this, we like it.

Digital media homogenizes everything: art, creativity, all digital content is just cash generating fodder.

But when did art become mere product?

When WE became the robots.

That’s the sad thing. We’re worried about AI and machines taking over but the fact is we are the robots. Have been since social media began following our every click in the name of marketing and sales. Online we’re followed, analyzed, and quantified. Our every thought is predicted.

Offline, everything beeps and we respond. From crossing the road to boiling the kettle our daily lives are programmed. The supermarkets use our loyalty cards to learn the food we eat. Cable companies track what we watch. Employers report on us. Banks and finance companies monitor our earnings and our spending. Cameras in malls and on our streets follow us. Governments collate and restrict our movements, use tax and benefits to cripple us. Our health is undermined for the sake of profit. We are no longer free or independent. Haven’t been for decades.

And basically, it’s our own fault. Our lives are too predictable. Ask Facebook and Google for confirmation. They know how and when we will react, to the last split second. Our actions and reactions are known to the machines, down to the food we eat, the way we spend our time, the people we meet, all of our needs and wants and desires. The robots already know what we have, why we have it, and what we can’t live without.

We are already slaves in a world where the computers are in control. They give us what we need, even before we know we need it. When we show an interest in products, goods, holidays, hobbies, whatever, the system will hound us 24/7 with news, marketing, and updates on all of those things.

The system follows us, tempts us, exploits us in a relentless pursuit of cash, with no thought to whether we can afford the items, the lifestyle, or the consequences of the purchases we can’t afford.

We live in a hedonistic world of credit card debt, mortgaged beyond our means, always owing more than we’ll ever earn.

So yes, if writers are to be part of the system, this brave new world, we should damn well get paid to feed the machine.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Zen and The Art of Writing


Life is about experimenting, finding out what works for you, what doesn’t, and eventually discovering what makes you happy. 

That’s my theory anyway.

Many people get trapped in a rut where they think life is about achieving material success. This is often counter-productive, because you will only become happy if you choose the path that is right for you.

From the moment we start writing, we’re on a quest to discover what works for us, how to best express ourselves, how words work for us and how we want them to work for our readers. We aspire to gain proficiency, an objective viewpoint, and we sharpen our ability to control our talent, art, and craft. In short, we constantly strive to make ourselves better artists.

Given the world we live in, this is not always a smooth journey.

During my younger days I did a lot of meditating. Ostensibly to calm myself during times of stress. And believe me, did I experience a lot of stress when I was younger!

From horrible jobs, terrible bosses, bitter disappointments, unhelpful partners and alcohol habits to support. During my most stressful times, I used to take time out to visualize my perfect life and to reinforce attitudes that I believed would be useful. Like knowing I didn’t need drugs or alcohol to cope, and believing that the color green was calming and therapeutic. At the time, meditation seemed to make little difference to my life but somehow, over a couple of decades, all the things I taught myself during meditation have come into my life as realities.

Nowadays, I can see and hear myself living the affirmations I made back then. I now have the life I was trying so hard to summon. Twenty years later, okay sure, but I got there! Through perseverance and sticking to my goals, even through the tough times.

I envy people who are talented but who also possess smarts and the social skills to benefit from their talent. Me, I was always shy and probably destined to be a quiet writer, shunning people and social situations. I never really liked networking, making friends with the right people. What do Americans call it? Social awkwardness. Yes, that sounds right. An aversion to talking, meeting, even being with others. It could be a curse but actually I found it liberating, once I understood how to embrace and profit from the need to be alone.

That’s the trick. Learn to embrace your flaws and use them instead of hating yourself for not being perfect. When you truly understand yourself, you’re better equipped to make decisions that will bring you happiness.

There’s nothing wrong with getting older. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Sure, the past may come back to haunt you. Whether you like it or not, scenes from your youth will pop into your head and you will see them anew. Little things that made no sense at the time can be recalled with sometimes terrifying clarity. Suddenly you can see through other people’s eyes. Situations become clearer, motivations more obvious.

And you can use these new perspectives to your advantage. Writers especially can use these insights in their writing.  

For instance, knowing you can start afresh is enormously liberating. It’s like permission to repair the past, to remake yourself and your work.

Similarly, knowing you can break things down, re-prioritize and re-evaluate how things are working, these are all wonderfully helpful tools to help restore your enthusiasm for old projects that didn’t seem to work.  

Use your changing perspective for the good. When we age, we like routines that keep our mind and body stable. Use that stability to your advantage. Keep a level head every day. Then there’s no fear and no rush. There’s plenty of time to get things finished.

The illusion that we have to get everything done immediately is not helpful. Only the very young believe we have to do everything immediately before the idea, or the initial excitement, wears off. Trust that you have the time.  

Of course, security - physical, mental and financial - is important. If your life is in constant turmoil, try meditation to smooth out the edges. Remind yourself that everything is fine. Problems tend to come from other people. Remove them from your life if necessary.

Like investing money in the future, think long term: take your time, relax and stop beating yourself up about not being perfect or lacking inspiration. Be a plodder. Allow yourself to live in the moment. Be present for your writing. Treat each sentence, each paragraph, each chapter with equal care and respect. Let every word shine.

People often complement me for having the perfect life but what they don’t realize is that I have constructed my days through a long process of eliminating what I don’t like, what doesn’t work for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t like doing the mundane stuff like cooking, housework, and chopping wood. I do all those things because they serve the greater purpose. My activities enable me to work more effectively.

So many students complain to me that their lives don’t help them write. Either because they’re surrounded by people who don’t encourage them or because their jobs exhaust them. Others say they’re always ill or prone to emergencies that get in the way. I have deliberately removed those distractions from my life. For my sanity.

Motivation is a gift but it comes from eliminating obstacles and being able to live without pain and suffering. You need to work on what really makes you happy, remove all those bad influences and simply focus on your creativity.

Then you’ll be living the dream.

And your writing will soar.

Till next week,

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy

Thursday, August 31, 2023

When you’re stuck, ROAR: Remove Obstacle and Resume


Since the beginning of the year I’ve written two novels, a short story, a few articles and some ongoing courses for my Academy. I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say I know all about getting stuck and feeling like I’m blocked.

Actually, as you probably know, I don’t like to use the word blocked. Sounds far too permanent. Stalled is probably a better word. More accurate, less scary sounding.

I like to write an average of 500 words a day minimum and generally feel useless and miserable if I don’t achieve that figure. Now, I know, 500 words is quite low but I chose it deliberately because I believe achieving only a small amount is better than nothing at all. Plus, if I happen to write a couple of thousand one day - a creative spurt every once in a while - then that feels like a serious bonus.  

As a long term consistent writer, I can confirm that navigating obstacles, blocks, and stalls is all part of the process of writing. In fact you could say you’re not writing properly unless you are plagued by the usual stops and starts that, though they seem debilitating at the time, are actually a necessary part of the creative process.

Nobody can be permanently positive and totally sure of themselves!

Indeed if a writer tells you they have no problem writing a lot all of the time, they’re probably doing it wrong!

As Joseph Wambaugh once said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than for most other people.” Which sounds about right.

So, to finally get to the point of this article, when you get stuck, what do you do?


First of all, much depends on why you’re stuck. You need to be honest with yourself and ask the hard questions, to which you might not like the answers.

Why do we get stuck? Let’s see.

1. You can’t write the next word

You’re too tired, stoned, or distracted. The answer? Go to bed or do something else. Watch TV, take a walk, or go out and party. Come back when you’re fresh.

2. You can’t write the next line

This is probably the most common complaint. Suddenly the writing seems too hard, something is not gelling or the whole thing seems forced, ridiculous, unconvincing or just well, boring.

Again, you’ve got to stop and ask yourself why this is happening. Examine your feelings. Usually your gut will know what’s wrong and what you really can’t face is fixing the problem. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t hate yourself or make any rash decisions about your work. Simply stop and take time out to reflect. At this point I may go do some housework, chop some wood for the fire, or drive somewhere pretty.

Ask yourself: Why am I feeling blocked?

Usually the first thing that comes to mind will be the correct answer.

Often you’ll find you’ve written yourself into a corner. Something you wrote previously has created a metaphorical stop in the forward motion. You may need to go back and brush away the dirt, change a line or two, delete a section, to fix a problem to help present you with forward motion again.

3. You can’t write the next paragraph

This is a different type of problem and is usually caused because you have no plan. Here is where you stop to brainstorm. Make 5 or 6 quick dot points about the things you want to cover in the next paragraph. Either plot points, observations or simply a thought process. I find this technique useful for creating forward motion quickly. If it doesn’t work for you, move on, pick up the project from a later point and vow to come back on completion of the manuscript. Don’t get stuck over things that might turn out to be unnecessary or inconsequential. And don’t let yourself get diverted into tributaries. Stay focused on the main goal.  

4. You can’t write the article, speech or lesson

I use the following technique all the time. Write anything, crap, general nonsense, random thoughts. Just let your brain vomit on to the page, make a mess, until you find the symmetry of a thought process. At that point, recognize that you may have accidentally hit upon a beginning and an end, two thoughts that complement each other. When that happens, delete the rubbish, polish out the crap, add sections that make more sense of the thought process, and then augment the flow by editing until the writing is succinct and clear. Keep polishing until you have created a diamond. Sorted.

5. You can’t start a new project

This is where AI can be useful. When I’m stuck for a beginning I’ll turn to Sudowrite and ask the program to come up with the first paragraph for my book, short story, or article. Usually the suggested 200 words are so bad I’ll start to edit and delete what I don’t like. Before you know it, I’m writing!

6. You don’t feel like writing at all

Seriously, you really need to ask yourself why. Start at the most obvious place: you’re not really a writer, you’ve just been fooling yourself, you’re a fraud…

How does that make you feel? Move up the ladder.

You’re having a bad week and you can’t see a way out of your busy life, your current illness, your annoying friends and family. None of the above?
Perhaps you’re just confused about your own project and you’ve forgotten your original goals. Reassess and restart. Never be afraid to throw stuff away. To be able to completely delete everything and start again is the mark of true professionalism.

I’m looking at my word count now and realize if I carry on I’ll be making this article too long, so I’ll stop.

Remember, when you’re stuck, ROAR: Remove Obstacle and Resume.

See you next week.

Till then,

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy

Thursday, August 24, 2023

It's Time for A New Start


So, this week I thought we'd try something new. I want to bring back my weekly Friday newsletter. Whether I do or not is really up to you!

Tell me what you think.

Welcome to The Thoughts of Chairman Rob

(Or some such title, I haven’t decided yet.)

Yes, I want to talk to you - again - on a weekly basis about writing, creativity, inspiration, and motivation. Plus I want to fill you in on what’s happening in the writing world and what I think about the issues facing us. Plus, you know, we can metaphorically shoot the breeze about life, the universe, and writing from my perspective.

Just to let you know, my writing web presence is now over twenty years young. And apart from running the Academy full-time from my little piece of antipodean paradise in the Land of Oz with my beloved Robyn, I’m still writing. New courses, books, novels, and short stories - generally being creative in words, music, and film.  

Now, I know it may be hard to believe, but not everyone was a fan of my newsletters. Indeed I stopped writing them for a while because people unsubscribed when I put them out. Which made me sad because I always loved talking to you, keeping in touch and sharing the love we feel for writing. For a while I kept quiet and thought perhaps you preferred not to be interrupted by my musings.

But I’ve moved on. Times have changed. The world is a whole new place since Covid. We’re a more insular species, money is tighter and we need our creativity to help us out. Now is the time I want to feel more connected to you, my dear subscriber, and to help you personally on your journey towards writing success.

I still get a lot of private emails asking for advice and guidance on many writing issues and, to be honest, I would like to share some of that help around to others who may be too timid or simply too busy to ask me for themselves.

Fact is, if I start to annoy you, you can always unsubscribe from my emails and still enjoy the now over fifty courses on offer on your Writing Academy dashboard.

Also, people ask me about the future too. 

* How can we make money writing these days? 

* Is writing still a valid career choice? 

* Is getting traditionally published still important? 

* How can we compete in a world dominated by self-publishing online? 

* How will copyright and ownership of our words work going forward? 

* Where can we get free inspiration, guidance and assistance? 

* Plus of course, how will Artificial Intelligence effect the future of writing?

I want to be able to answer your questions on these issues and many more of your questions pertaining to fiction writing: characterization, plotting, dialog, scene crafting, and other issues like inspiration, motivation, technique, style, and perseverance.

Over the coming weeks and months I want to speak with you about the Writing Academy so that we can work together to help each other.

Let me know what you think and help me shape this Friday newsletter. I appreciate your help. Let’s make this newsletter a special weekly event!

As always, I'm here to help.

Keep Writing!


Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Easy Way To Give Stuff Up


Have you ever tried to give something up? Like smoking – or drinking? What about drugs? Or sugar? Fat? Meat, Sex, Gluten, MSG, lemon popsicles, treating people badly, or even watching TV, or worst, scrolling Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok for hours…

            Well, I have good news for you because, after twenty years of successfully giving up lots of bad habits, I suddenly had an epiphany the other day that may help you in your quest to be perfect but remain perfectly happy.

            Because that’s the hard part, right? We all think that willpower should carry us through the difficult times, but it never does. Then we get depressed because we can’t fight the urge to return to our normal bad habit. And feeling sad makes us justify giving up stopping the thing we’re giving up!

            You know how it is. Everything is fine when you make the decision. “I will give up (insert habit here) forever, right now,” you might say to yourself, because being emphatic seems like the right way forward. Perhaps it is because, when you’re determined, you might last maybe three or four days but then, inevitably, the doubts set in. Your mind constantly mulls over the loss of your seemingly favourite activity and your resolve begins to falter. Before you know it, you’re back indulging – just a little bit because that won’t hurt, right? - and you get that wonderful dopamine rush that comes with succumbing to temptation.

            It’s like our bodies are designed to never change and, as we get older, to find more and more bad habits to drag us down.

            But it needn’t be that way. I’ve proved to myself that it is perfectly possible to give stuff up – the stuff that seemed impossible too – by simply looking at the issue in a completely different way.

            The trick is to accept that your “addiction” or “obsession” is OVER.

            It’s literally dead to you.

Personally, I think abstinence support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous don’t work, in fact they probably make things worse for most normal people. Sure, be a victim, relinquish control, be forever miserable about abstaining from your joy.

My feeling is that instead, you need to get over an addiction, physically and mentally, and that constantly reminding yourself of your weakness and inadequacy as a human being in daily meetings is cruel and unusual punishment for something that is, after all, often just a phase in your life or your development.

Better is a system that permits you to let go of your past behaviour and allows you to move forward with confidence. That’s where my revelation comes in.

Because, you see, whenever I give something up, I see it as a death moment.

And with death comes the various stages of grief that can equally be applied to bad habits, even addictions. The thing about death is its finality. Therein lies its power.  

Smoking is probably the most irksome of habits to give up. The physical and mental toll that giving up entails is literally Herculean. The worst part is that you never feel your addiction is over. Over time – and we’re talking two or three years here – the craving goes away. But not suddenly nor with any satisfactory step or signal. The craving simply reduces over time – a long time, in the same way as the gnawing grief for the death of, say, a friend or a family member. And it’s only when you accept that abstaining from a bad habit is exactly like grief that you start to understand the mechanism that is controlling your attitude towards the stuff you want to give up.

Once you realise that your craving is not going to magically disappear – and might never fully diminish - then you’re better equipped to deal with the ennui of giving up stuff.

We want to believe that giving something up is going to be momentous. We want to feel proud of our accomplishment. We want to feel energized and positive, be perhaps congratulated but the fact is, giving things up is boring. It takes time and worst of all, you only know you’ve succeeded when you feel a sense of anticlimax and, well, nothing much.

Just like the opposite of love is indifference, the opposite of addiction is torpor!

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

Dullness is good, empowering, normal, safe, decent and strong.

Only the weak can’t say no to pleasure. We all accept that. And there’s nothing wrong with saying it nowadays. Times have changed.

That’s the thing. The days when addicts are seen as victims are numbered.

For instance. The AA came out of the 1920s, almost a century ago, when we could offload the blame and claim over-drinking might be an illness. We know it’s not really, except in very extreme cases. It’s simply a habit, which we know deep down we can stop or change at any time. It’s just that we don’t want to stop because it’s no fun.

Let’s face it, we smoked because we enjoyed it. Same with illicit drugs.

TV is cool. Endless scrolling is fun. It’s stimulating and distracting at the same time. That’s the kind of thing our brains enjoy. But can we stop?

Sure we can. To say otherwise is to legitimise the absolving of responsibility for ourselves and our decisions. We’ve got to stop doing that. We must take back control and accept we’re always able to change our behaviours at any time. It might take months and years to achieve success but what’s the problem with that? Most of us have plenty of time to change. We just need to understand the change might not be quick, and it may well be boring and noneventful.

Like losing a friend, or like getting over the death of a beloved pet, grief can be palpable, painful and depressing but, let’s face it, the feelings always subside over time.

Yeah, giving things up can be hard but…

So what? Do it anyway and enjoy the (yawn) benefits for years to come.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

Thursday, August 23, 2018

On Being a Modern Writer

The Writing Academy

Nobody will ever miss something you didn't write.

People don't wish they could find a genius they are unaware of, hanker after a writer to inspire them, or wish they could find the book that hasn't been written.

It's the harshest reality a writer must face. 

Nobody cares whether you finish your magnum opus - or gives a toss whether you work on it at all.

A book is nothing until it's published - and even then, given the way things are, it's unlikely to sell more than a few copies.

Funny, I write for a living. Have done for the last 20 years. You can get a lot of eyes on things if you include the words: “money, fast and easy” in your marketing but write about anything else and your stuff pretty much disappears. 

It’s never stopped me though, because I’m a writer, and writers write, no matter what happens… can you say that?

Writers must find their own reasons to write - and be self-motivated enough to continue without anything but selfish reasons to finish what they start. As Dorothea Brande said in "Becoming a Writer", writers create their own emergencies. They have to, because nobody else really gives a damn.

Recently I was rereading Stephen King's "On Writing" and I noticed something I'd previously missed.

He said he used to believe that writing was a craft and that it could be taught; a skill that, with enough training and guidance, anyone could master. Note, he said he used to think that.

Later in his career, after he'd written around twenty novels, he changed his mind. He realized that the urge to write consistently must be something you're born with.

Think about it - writing for no good reason (except a personal compulsion) is an urge that is so specific - even a little bizarre - that, without it being somehow hard-wired into a writer's DNA, most people, no matter how keen to learn, simply wouldn't bother.

It's not like it's easy, after all.

Some people say that if you find writing easy, you're probably not doing it right. I know from experience that authors who tell me they found writing their novel a breeze, signals that there’s usually a need for some serious editing!

Don't get me wrong. I do think that writing the first draft of a story or a book should be quick, painless, or at the very least, an exhilarating experience. That's usually how your best work feels. When you're 'in the zone' and being productive and inspired, you're a writer, just like any other Dan Brown, Emily Bronte, or Tolstoy.

But that's not all there is to it. 

There's endless editing and polishing too. And having something important to say. And having the ability to hold an entire book in your mind - and get it all down on paper. And, of course, the toughest call: being able to arrange your life to find the time and inclination to write every day.

Not everyone thinks writing is glamorous. Even many professional writers have no great regard for the process, only the conviction that, to create something of value and importance, you have no choice but to do it. 

You and only you.

Of course, 'value' and 'importance' are relative terms. That's the point. Only Tolstoy thought it was vitally important to write War and Peace. It had no value to his wife, most likely, and none of us would have missed it - or him - if he'd become an alcoholic and never got around to writing more than a few hundred words and threw them away, like many would be authors do.

The next time you're tempted to write a book, think it through.

Is it important you get it all down?

And are you willing to spend 80% of the process on making it perfect?

Because, like Mr King, I used to think that writing half a page of scribbled lines gave you the right to call yourself a writer.

But now, after I've written a couple million or so words, I'm beginning to think that being a writer is more involved.

It's somehow innate in a writer's makeup.

Perhaps practice is all it takes - consistent action and dedication to the art. 

But more likely you need to discover the writer within - that guy or gal inside who was never going to be satisfied until you gave them free rein to take over your life. 

But if the muse isn’t there, except as a vague yearning, maybe the best thing is to quit while you're ahead!

Because being a full-time writer is still one of the hardest ways to live. Ask any author. Even when you're successful, the motivation to write, stay focused, inspired and clear for long periods can be tough.

Sure, it's rewarding - and often fun. 

That’s if readers find you – and like what you do…

But be clear on this: commitment to writing books is not for the faint hearted. And it’s certainly not for those who might be looking to make money fast and easily.

You need patience, and to be a little bit crazy.

Take one step at a time – walk slowly and surefootedly - but be sure you have good sturdy shoes before you start.
Keep Writing! 

The Writing Academy

Welcome to the official blog of Rob Parnell's Writing Academy, updated weekly - sometimes more often!