Quora Virgin

To bring my writing to a wider audience, and in an act of blatant self-publicity, I have started to respond to questions on Quora. It’s a strange place, occupied by a huge global audience of 100 million users, and gives a wonderful real-life view of the world. It is a large community. It is truly a global base.

If you don’t know, then this is how it works. It is very simple. A question is posted waiting for a community response.

What I find most interesting is the range of questions and the insight they give into the mind of the world. At one edge there are very technical questions.

Can I get a U.S. Federal Apostille for a letter issued from a U.S. consulate if there is only a consular officer’s signature, but no stamp or seal?

What if my U.S employer files a B-1 Visa petition with USCIS on my behalf to enter the U.S for a short stay and it gets approved, would I still be required to attend an interview at the U.S embassy in my country?

On the opposite edge, there are those searching for cheap erotic and vicarious thrills with sanctioned pornography.

What was the most promiscuous person you have ever met like?

What are the dirtiest secrets that you haven’t told anybody?

Have you ever let someone look up your skirt on purpose in public?

I am sure you will be pleased to know that if you feel inclined to answer you can go anonymous. If nothing else, you can quickly understand the norms of different cultures. A stolen kiss in India has the equivalence of sex in the open air in Europe.

If you are looking for a definitive answer to a specific issue, Quora is not your place. It is a community site and you can’t be sure of the credentials of the contributors. However, whereas Wiki is about facts, Quora is about opinions. Quora is like going down to the pub and asking your mates what they think. You will always get a wide range of opinions and then you have to judge where you stand.

I have joined and to recognise this here is my first answer to a question. It has been viewed just under 200 times in the 24 hours since it was posted. It is all good publicity!

You’re a successful writer. What advice would you give writers trying to write a book?

I have read all the answers already here and there are a thousand truths you should follow. I gave up a business career, and good money, to become a writer. I now have four published books, but little more money. They are all different genres because with each I was testing myself to find my limitations and, in the process, I discovered there are a great many.

I can’t disagree with any of the advice. A good story helps. Characterisation is crucial. Editing is essential.

Some will tell you to plan everything in detail. I tried that as if I was writing one of the many consulting reports I had written. It didn’t work for me and I turned to listening to my characters and let them take me on their journey. I remember writing late one night when one of them died. They were so much a part of my life, I cried and worked no more for two days.

But that was my way.

However, the best advice I received, and the advice I pass on whenever I am asked to talk about my work and books is practice.

The only way to get better at writing, and anything else for that matter, is to practice and make sure you take every opportunity to write. If you don’t know what to write, then write a blog. It happens that my fiancée lives 3,000 miles away in Kiev and so I write a letter to her every day. I treat writing those letters as if they were going to be published. I check them, I edit them and will rewrite them if I am not happy. It’s all a bit futile as they will be translated into Russian but that is not the point. they must be perfect when they leave me.

Very, very few of us are given the skills of a Shakespeare or Hemmingway and we need to hone the little we have to improve and be better at our profession.

It is never easy, and if you want to read a great book on writing read Stephen King’s On Writing. You will find it an inspiration and will motivate you. And, while referencing Stephen King this is an anecdote he tells. Don’t let this drive you to despair.

“A friend came to visit James Joyce one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair.

James, what’s wrong?’ the friend asked. ‘Is it the work?’

Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at his friend. Of course, it was the work; isn’t it always?

How many words did you get today?’ the friend pursued.

Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled face down on his desk): ‘Seven.’

Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you.’

Yes,’ Joyce said, finally looking up. ‘I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order they go in!”

If anyone wants to read any of my novels they can be found at www.brovary.co.uk  Thank you.