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.


About Writing

Do you ever look at Quora? If not, then let me tell you about it. It is a free, user-driven Q&A site on the internet. Users can pose a question and readers reply with their thoughts and observations on the World. Sometimes there are sensible questions, often they are very silly.

Is England a totalitarian State?  was an example that hit my email this morning. As you can see, often, it says far more about the questioner, but I am surprised how many gain serious answers.

I was amused by answers to the question, are British people in any danger if they visit the Republic of Ireland?  There was a consensus of answers that danger is only around the corner in Dublin where locals are totally fed up with stag night revellers.

Always under discussion as a core topic is writing. There are many questions on how to start or write the first book with something like I want to write a book this year, what should I do first?

The advice is worthy and always covers the range from, just start writing and blag it through to recommendations to plan everything in detail.

But all make it clear that whether you call it a theme, purpose or main character’s motivation first you must have an idea.

There are two things that I have to do every day. One is writing this essay and the second is write a letter to Sasha and so twice every day I face this problem of coming up with an idea. Where do I start?

I know that there are three different learning techniques

  • Listening learners heard their mother, believed the information, and never touched a stove.
  • Seeing learners watched their brother touch the stove, and never touched it.
  • Experience learners touched the stove; but only once!

President Reagan with his film and TV background was an extreme seeing learner and it was reported that all his briefings were put onto a DVD, so he could watch them on the television. Probably an exaggeration just as much as President Trump is getting all his briefings through the Muppet Show.

Most of us use a mixture of all three but have a preference towards one or the others.

I can remember conversations far better than I remember the written word. I can recall what someone has said to me many years ago, and I do it by remembering the situation and the event. I can recall the room, the people around us, my mood and then the words come back to me.

This is how I write. I imagine the scene. I can see the everything as if it was a film set and I am watching a movie and can hear all the conversation. My task is only to try and describe the scene. Sometimes I do this well but never as well as I want. Films start with a book or a script and then become action. My world is the other way around. I start with the film and have to turn it into words.

When I write to Sasha I imagine her sitting in a café, sipping a mid-morning coffee, and reading my letter. I can see what she is wearing, how she is sitting and even the way she lifts the cup to drink. I have this perfect picture in my mind. I write to make her mood better so that when she goes back to work she feels happy and empowered.

But back to Quora and how to write a book. I never post an answer. Although I am a writer I can’t class myself as a successful writer as I don’t sell millions of books. I know that advice is only as valuable the price you have paid for it.

If I were to answer I would say that you need to close your eyes and dream. You need to see the scene before you can describe it. You need to watch the movie of your characters and describe it.

It has always been like this for me. You may say I’m a dreamer. When you call me a daydreamer that is the truth but, I’m not the only one