Feb 07


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Kicking off a new series for 2018, Jane Cable talks to romantic novelist and former seafarer John Jackson

What was the first writing advice you were ever given?

The first piece was one I worked out for myself before starting to write fiction.

In a previous life, I spent many years preparing safety manuals, policies and procedures. In the main, these were for non-native English-speaking ship’s crew, from the Philippines, Burma, Poland and the like.

Back in the day, companies, especially shipping companies, all thought that the only good manual was a BIG one. This saw many shipping lines having massive and all-encompassing manuals that nobody read. These weren’t written to help seafarers be better at their jobs, they were written with the sole aim of stopping the Company being sued.

To me, it soon became clear that “It’s useless writing something that nobody can read and understand.”

So, clarity is everything – and it’s a trait that I hope I bring to my fiction writing. Certainly, a feature of Heart of Stone’s reviews is that it is a “fast read” and a “real page turner”

I got into writing fiction at the behest of some friends who happened to be members of the Romantic Novelists Association. Their advice to me, to try and get onto the RNAs “New Writers Scheme” was certainly the best advice I received. As a man trying to make it in a genre dominated by women writers, I can only thank the RNA and its members for the unconditional help and support I have been given.

What was the most recent writing advice you were given?

With just one published book to my name, I know I am still “learning my craft.” Publishing, with all the ancillary professions, such as editors and agents, is an enormous and diverse business.

It is also a business that is changing and changing fast. Writing is a famously lonely occupation. In many ways, we are the bottom men on the totem pole. It is also very easy to forget that this is a BUSINESS. We might write because it’s just something that we want or have to do, but for everyone else, it’s a business, and their only decision is “can they make money from your work.”

This might not be advice that anyone would give you directly, but it is true, nonetheless.

Self-publishing and the rise of Amazon has also shrunk the market for the other professionals; it has made them even more reluctant to take on any but the most immediately marketable authors. The days of a publisher taking on a young author and nurturing their career in the hope of a bestseller down the line are long gone. Self-publishing is no longer considered vanity publishing. It is a valid and popular method of getting your work to market.

What is the piece of advice you’d most like to pass on? (writing or otherwise!)

Every manuscript needs a good editor. It is someone else’s eyes giving a professional and fresh look at your work. So many self-published books show very early in the read that they have never been properly edited.

I am very lucky in that Sue, my editor, is also a friend, and we work together well. Other friends are not so lucky, especially when contracted to one of the major publishing houses. Sometimes you may have to fight for what you want, but always remember – this is YOUR story, You have to have faith in it.

That’s what we are doing Telling a story – and everything you write should be towards that end. We are not writing textbooks or reference works, we are STORYTELLERS!

Keep the faith! Your writing WILL get better, and you WILL succeed. Sometimes this is hard but you need to believe in yourself.

Keep up with John on Twitter @jjackson42