03 May John Braine

Always write from experience.  Your own experience is absolutely unique…

In fact, too exciting a life, too many adventures, too much travel, too much of the world of action, are positively a handicap to the novelist.  The danger is that he becomes too much the participant, not enough the observer.  Writers like Tolstoy and Hemingway are the exceptions to the rule.

p. 37
… It is what has hurt you that is the most valuable of all.  Write about it and it will hurt you no more.

I didn’t really believe this when I first came across it, in slightly different words, in Somerset Maugham’s autobiography;  not until I’d written my first novel did I find out the truth of it.  But writing isn’t therapy;  on the contrary, it twists and distorts the psyche.  If the experience has lost its power to hurt you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a better person.  The hurtful experience is what is best for the novel, wht makes it authentic and alive and not mere fabrication.

You must set aside time to remember and time in which to write and read; on top of that, unless you’re the one in a million with an independent income, you’ve a living to earn.  I’m aware that it’s a counsel of perfection, but try not to get married or permanently entangled before your novel is finished,.  An accepted novel means that your writing can be taken seriously, as seriously as any of the recognized claims on your spare time.