The Real Writing Life

Posted on May 3, 2020 by Kilmo

So how many drafts do you do?
I’ve read stuff that tells you three drafts is what you need. Maybe they’re right. If you are a great writer then perhaps three drafts really is all you need, but I’m a normal mortal. I need around twenty drafts; I long ago gave up on thinking three is enough. There’s a moment when all the words on the page start to make sense…like each word has another meaning…almost like you’re telling two stories at once. No, it’s not finished when that happens, but you’re close. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Because, although it all makes sense to you it won’t to someone else. Go the extra mile, sort that prose out.
If you’ve got to fifty drafts and it’s still meaningless gobbledygook without a real plot it’s time to self publish and be damned. Maybe someone will like you’re mutant offspring.


Posted on April 29, 2020 by Kilmo

Ever tried getting back into the groove of being a professional writer?
Don’t stop in the first place.
If you stop you forget all the multitude of platforms and things you’re trying to stay on top of. I would say this though: life gets in the way. If you have to stop writing and submitting make a plan. Write out what it is you were doing so you can get back on it easily when you pick it up again. It’s not very Hunter S Thompson but great man though he was even he said he was living up to a caricature. Right time right place for some, probably not the best idea for you attempt to copy the man.
(Not that I’m saying don’t experiment, but that’s for another post and another part of your life.)
Posted on April 29, 2020 by Kilmo

No one sits there and spanks red wine while their writing, at least not if you’re like me, and not if you’re not suicidal. I have been known to sit at my computer and have a drink though. You will spill booze everywhere when you do this and waking up in your chair with red wine pouring out of your key board has got to be one of the worst ways to wake up…ever. Plus there is the horrible, terrifying realisation of what you might have done whilst you were drunk. I can’t remember most of what I do when pissed….by about the second bottle memory becomes obsolete. So when recalling my sessions the imagination kicks in –
Did you try to be funny with that editor? You did didn’t you? As for Twitter? Oh dear, oh dear.
I quickly realised (clever lad) that having a glass or two whilst tapping away wasn’t going to work. I’m sure there are responsible adults who can drink and work professionally. I don’t know them. I don’t think I even really live on the same planet as them.
Posted on April 29, 2020 by Kilmo

Oh brilliant, I’ve just managed to piss off loads of editors. For those of us like me who’ve been called by a nickname for decades – DON’T STOP USING IT WHEN YOU TALK TO THEM. For complicated reasons relating to identity and location I always used to sign my emails ‘Kilmo’. It’s no secret what my real name is but I felt more comfortable using my nickname. After all I’m not a professional writer, at least not then, and I felt a lot more connected to the underground scene I’d been a part of for many years. I was a total novice when I first started at this….I think I’m somewhere midway now.
Since around the first quarter of last year though I haven’t been submitting short stories. After a very complicated move I just started working through my old submissions and wondered what had happened to them. Hence thinking – ‘Well….I suppose I’m am lot more professional now, maybe I should use J.Kilmister.’ In all truthfulness the first few mails I didn’t even think about it. I just did it.
But people like to know who you are and names are funny things. Stick with what you started to call yourself first is my advice otherwise you annoy a whole load of people. Imagine how many forms you’re down for using that name, and you get moody letters from horrible looking editors pretending to be hippies. Trust me it’s not nice.


Posted on 28/05/2021
Stuck In The Magic Roundabout

The word keeps bouncing round my head like like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout, except with a rock drill instead of that spring he had for legs.


I am not a professional. I would like to be and I am attempting to learn, but then something incredibly retarded happens to remind me that sadly I’m still a berk. Like charging out of a caravan after a stint of agricultural labour on my way to the library to write convinced of my own Godhood . . . for about five seconds before I got my laptop wedged in the door and nearly strangled myself with the strap. Or deleting an important email saying another of my stories had been rejected by a very definitely professional ezine.


Bounce, bounce, bounce . . . Kachunkachunkachunka.


But I have had an important insight, I think. It occurs to me that if people are unprofessional with you, whilst you may not care, you will then go and be unprofessional with someone else who you really shouldn’t behave like that with. It happens because suddenly you’ve go a whiff of maybe we can all be slack after all and you’ve gone running through the loophole that means you can relax. Humans are lazy (well I am and I’m reasonably convinced I’m a human). If we’re let off the hook we go all flabby and rubbish. That’s not going to get many stories published is it? Or, and here’s the big one, a book published.

Christ I wish I’d slept last night.



A post on the real writing business.

My learning curve’s sometimes not quite as steep as I would like. The other day I was thinking about diaries, editors, and submission responses, not to mention the intergalactic rarity that is actually getting published. By now I’ve had more than one market say they’ve accepted my work, and then something’s happened.

When I was just starting out I diligently read a distance learning company’s ‘How to Write’ manuals. I studied their instructions on dealing with the submission process diligently and to be honest with you I think they got most of it if not all of it wrong. (I’m tempted to tell you who these people were but I feel a bit like I’d be grassing them up. Writers have got to eat too, no?) Anyway, said manuals made out editors to be this lofty super evolved species who only in very rare circumstances should be bothered. Yet I’ve got this sneaking suspicion they’re just people like you and me. One young woman who said she’d publish me I didn’t get back to for ages convinced that this superbreed of unencountered literary types would magically have everything under control. It turned out she’d lost my story when she moved and had to muck around with her computers. She had then completely forgotten about it and published the anthology without me included. Of course, don’t be an idiot (and I’m including myself in this) and bother them relentlessly. They’re busy, your busy, but you CAN actually email them.

Now, it’s worth mentioning why I was thinking about diaries before you take everything I write as gospel.

Until I was in my mid to late thirties a diary was a foreign object sometimes distantly glimpsed wielded by people in suits. I lived a bit of an alternative life, right? And I spent the majority of time . . . well . . . playing tiddlywinks and engaging in wholesome outdoorsy pursuits . . . obviously. Then I went nuts.

The concept of recording the few things I really needed to be there for would not have sat well with me, and for the other bit there wasn’t exactly lots going in my life apart from mental health problems. Moving swiftly on.


You will have noticed that all the different markets for publication have their own rules and preferences. That includes when they’ll get back to you about your work and when they’re going to publish you should you have been successful in your submission. Plus the ever important one which I always forget – when to send them a query about your stories progress. RECORD THAT INFORMATION IN YOUR DIARY/ SMART PHONE/ LAPTOP/ PC. Anything that goes beep months later and reminds you to check up on your work’s progress. Do it in the place where you put your doctor’s appointments, funerals, birthdays . . . that sort of stuff.

Editors are human too. They’ll tell you that they’ll inform you what’s happening, but mistakes get made, things get lost. Basically, shit happens, and you’ll only eventually notice when something goes wrong far too late to do anything about it. This is all probably blatantly obvious to you. But to me . . . well . . . ten years on I’ve only just figured out that it is never, ever, going to work recording that information in the book those writing manuals told me to keep of all the hundreds of short story acceptances that are going to come flooding in any moment. That, *AHEM* AHEM* *AHEEEEM,* are somehow going to keep me fed and watered. Such a book you would presumably then check all the time. This is really stuff for another post so I’ll leave it there.



So, you’ve worked hard. You’ve sat in front of the computer for hours, days, weeks . . . sob . . . months, and you’ve finally crafted a work of fictional prose such as the world has never seen. It’s a gem, a masterpiece. It explores realms and possibilities that the mind can only boggle at. You deserve a medal, or at the very least a night getting slaughtered (shame we barely ever get paid, isn’t it?). Anyway, you’re knackered and you know what you’ve done is good. So you start looking for somewhere to get it published, and Christ it’s a pain in the arse. Waffle, waffle, waffle, what the hell are all these stupid submitting rules anyway? Am I really expected to read/do all this? And why does every bloody magazine have a different set of headache inducingly complicated formatting requirements? MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL – WHY DO THEY ALL HAVE TO BE AMERICAN AND HELL BENT ON BEING AWKWARD ABOUT QUOTATION MARKS? (Helps if you change them even if it does feel like selling out). Unfortunately, you do have to read the formatting requirements unless you want the him/her making the decisions to just bung your story in the rubbish.


You also have to actually read where your submitting it to. I know. What the hell do they want from us? You’ve worked really hard. You want to kick back and chill, crack that can of beer, snort that line of donkey dust . . . break out the rubber gimp suit. Whatever your pleasure. Now you’re expected to remember that reading is fun too, and there are other weird world’s people have come up with . . . AND . . . they may be quite good, perhaps even better than yours. Wankers.

I’m serious though. There is no point submitting your story to someone who won’t want what it says. You can’t just read the ‘about’ section either and make up your mind that way. I will explain. This is because if a magazine has just published a story about brain eating snails invading the Kremlin then they’re not going to want another one on the same subject for the next issue, are they? And it doesn’t matter if it’s not exactly the same story either. You have to be supplying them with something fresh, different, from anything else they’ve recently put out there. The only way you’re going to know about that is research.

After all, all you’re doing by sending your story off to someone who likes fairies not chainsaw massacring psycho’s is wasting your time. Probably their time as well, but I expect they’d read about two words of it and toss it in the bin. That’s how it goes. Meanwhile you’ve had to wait months for the rejection to come through. So, do yourself a favour and read your market. You don’t have to go overboard and buy a lifetime’s subscription but work out who the people are and what they want.

And yeah, I ignored the same advice when I first came across it years ago. After all I was a literary genius, wasn’t I?



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