William Kowalski, Writing tips for first-time novelists.

william Kowalski

I’ve never heard of William Kowalski and I’m pretty sure he’ll never have heard of me. I followed this link http://williamkowalski.com/wp-content/themes/shoelace/ebooks/Writing_For_Novelists.pdf

He gives advice for first-time novelists. You should follow it too.  If something can make you laugh then its half way to being genius. Here it’s when his mentor, Jack Kunickzak, explained to a young Kowalski that while his shipmates went shipside to watch the American military blew up some innocent atoll with nuclear weapons he saw that as the perfect opportunity to go and lie on his bunk and read. Reading, as all innocent atoll watchers don’t know, is half way to writing.

There’s nothing special about writing or writers in the same way there’s nothing special about food or water. We need stories to make sense of our world. Everyone tells stories. And as Kowlaski says he doesn’t want to hear about how good or bad a writer you are. He doesn’t want to hear about your writing block. In fact, he doesn’t want to see you at all. He wants to see your writing. Writers write and when you’re not writing you’re not a writer, but some guy talking bullshit about writing.

The biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful writers Kowalski suggests isn’t talent, but practice and perseverance. Writing is a democracy. It doesn’t care who you are or where you are. But unless you practice you’re not going to grow as a writer. If you’re goal is money or fame then it’s very unlikely you will succeed. Kowalski, like the rest of us, admits he’s not immune to their sheen, but sees them as by-products of good writing.

Good writers Kowalski suggests are those that observe the way things work. He does a natty line in which he quotes the Suffi mystics as saying we don’t have just five senses but 360 senses. I immediately observed that there are 360 degrees in a circle and that has taken us back to the beginning or end or things. I’m here on sufferance, an unsuffi-suffi.

If you think about writing it’s about channelling experience. Kowalski suggests a good young writer should live his life and have some real-life experiences to draw on to deepen his work. Reading other people’s work is piggy-backing on life’s experiences. Learning is always a good thing. The broader the learning the better the writer. The wider the base, the more perfect the summit.

That got me thinking about a friend I used to know when I was younger (about a million moons ago when Jimmy Saville wasn’t a paedophile). Mary was seventeen and had the punky-blue black hair. She was about five-foot tall and a bit stocky. Bit of a dirty laugh and a big presence.

Jean was about forty-two. Had two kids and was a wee wifey, but without the husband that had a bit of drink problem and fucked off.

Which one of these two would you want to be your social worker? Whose story would you like to hear?

Writing is a bit like when all the tribes brought their art to Gormenghast. One piece selected and the rest burned. Make a pyre of your mistakes. I like this Kowalski and may pay him the ultimate tribute and read his work. A writer can ask for no greater homage than that.


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