blog 9: In which I share 20 invaluable lessons I’ve learnt since becoming a writer

1. No matter how true it is, you will never be able to convince anyone that all that time you spend staring into space, you are actually working on your novel. 

2. When you give people a copy of your unpublished manuscript to read, no matter how incredibly brilliant and life-changing they might find it, their greatest pleasure will be derived from pointing out all your spelling, punctuation and typographical errors.

3. If you are invited to speak at schools be prepared for the question, “Do you know Andy Griffiths/Paul Jennings/Morris Gleitzman/*insert here name of any insanely or annoyingly  popular and successful author that obviously isn’t you*?”

4. Your answer to the question, “Do you know Andy Griffiths/Paul Jennings/Morris Gleitzman etc?” should always be, “Why yes. They’re my biggest fans.”

5. If you are asked to join other authors at a Book signing table, don’t sit next to people like Andy Griffiths/Paul Jennings/Morris Gleitzman. etc 

6. If you foolishly ignore Point 5 and do find yourself at a Book signing table beside an author who has a line of readers in front of them, which apart from the Great Wall of China, is the only other human-made thing visible from space, to save public humiliation, if anyone does happen to bring you a book to sign, don’t under any circumstances, allow them to leave until another person turns up to replace them.

7. If by following the advice in Point 6 you inadvertently become involved in a deadly tug-of-war with a reader over their copy of your book, remember to maintain your dignity at all times. (eg the biting of a hand to get them to release their grip is generally frowned upon, except in extreme circumstances. Head butting is acceptable as a last resort.)

8. If you are fortunate enough to be invited to take part in a panel with other authors and each author has been given a STRICT time limit of say, ten minutes to speak, and you are the last speaker – don’t worry about preparing anything. There may be time for you to hold up your book, point at the cover and say ‘Book, mine!’

9. If you are invited to sign copies of your book at a bookshop, unless you are a best-selling author or a TV star or a Celebrity Chef, a good way to pass the lonely hours is by helping to shelve books and spot shoplifters.  

10. If you are writing something for public consumption – a blog for example – and you decide to put together a list such as … let’s say ummm .. “20 invaluable lessons I’ve learnt since becoming a Writer” … and you get about half way through and suddenly realise that at an absolute stretch you can really only think of about 18 things, then just write something that sounds like it’s on the topic but really isn’t. Another thing you could try if you were desperate is to just leave out one of the other numbers completely and hope no-one notices. Sometimes inserting an a totally irrelevant image can act as a distraction.

I really wish I could think of a Caption for this photo.


 12. If you are asked to sign a book and the person tells you that their name is something like Twinkle Rose Blossom try not to exclaim loudly,‘You’re joking! Were your parents on drugs or just insane?’ Some people are extremely sensitive about things like that. Certainly little Lotus Petal was.

13. If you get invited to a literary function where there is free food, it is perfectly acceptable for writers to have a sandwich in each hand. Having one in your mouth at the same time is sometimes considered a no-no. If you are a poet there are no restrictions. 

14. When you go into a bookshop it is also perfectly acceptable to turn your books out so that the covers are showing. It is not quite as acceptable to turn other people’s books back to front so nobody can read their spines or to move the books of authors you don’t like or those who are insanely or annoyingly popular to the gardening section. (At the very least I’ve found that it’s wise to check for security cameras before you do this.)

15. As a means of self-promotion remember to take every opportunity to work the fact that you are a writer and the name of your book into every conversation. For example:

Was I really going 120 kilometres per hour in a sixty zone Officer? Wow I wish my typing speed was that high! Why when I wrote my first novel …. What? You’re going to book me! Hey, speaking of books … “

16. Remember there’s no such thing as Writers’ Block! It’s just that you might not be able to think of anything good to write for a really, really, really, really long time. If ever.

17. STAY POSITIVE! Remember The Dubliners by James Joyce was rejected 22 times and Carrie by Stephen King was rejected 30 times! Put negative thoughts like “Hey if really good writers like James Joyce and Stephen King were rejected all those times, what chance have I got?” totally out of your head. 

18. Keep in mind that if you address a class who have studied your novel that not everyone in the room will have loved your book. Ask those clowns to leave.

19. If you meet another author and they apologise to you for not having read your novel, you can make them feel really bad by saying, ‘Gee I’ve read all of yours.’

20. Finally, remember everyone has different tastes and opinions and no matter how many glowing reviews you might receive there will always be some negative ones. Don’t worry. Different books appeal to different people. That’s what makes human beings so wonderful, fascinating and enchanting! We are all unique and special and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Even those pea-brained, insensitive, humourless, cretins, with the attention span of a hyper-active house fly who don’t like your stuff.

I really hope this is of some help.

ps Feel free to send in any ‘valuable lessons’ you may have learnt about writing.



This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to blog 9: In which I share 20 invaluable lessons I’ve learnt since becoming a writer

  1. Pat Flynn says:

    Bloody hilarious post.
    Number 13 is the one I most relate to.


  2. Andrew Girle says:

    Nice work on the lessons. I like the (I’m guessing) self-editing in 20 – or did your lawyer get on to you?


  3. I read this to my writers group this afternoon. They loved it and told me how lucky I am to be your friend – I agree totally. 🙂


  4. chrisbongers says:

    How much do I love this post? Let me count the ways…
    At my first ever Writers Festival, I had Morris Gleitzman at the signing table next to me; at my second ever festival, it was Jackie French… The universe does it on purpose to see if we have the right stuff to persevere in the face of such torments.
    You forgot to mention all the people who ask for free copies. If I explain that I have to buy my own extra copies from the publisher, they smile and say oh good, you have copies then, and still expect me to hand one over. Your advice, oh wise one?


    • mgbauer says:

      Free copies! Yes should have covered that one. My first experience sitting beside someone popular was Li Cunxin who wrote Mao’s Last Dancer. Didn’t stand a chance.


  5. Lynne the Lurker says:

    But gee, MGB, I *have* read all your books…


  6. Karen Collum says:

    Point number 11 was my favourite… 😛


  7. Oh, yeah, good one, Michael!! Great suggestions, lol. I like Gabi’s one, too.
    May I add Marcus Zusak to the seating arrangements? Fatal, I’d imagine.
    I’ll be sure to pass on your valuable lessons to all aspiring writers 🙂


  8. Love your post, as always Michael! I’d like to add my experience. Number 5.1. When placed next to the likes of Morris Gleitzman or Michael Gerard Bauer at a signing table, leave the place card that has your name on it on the table so that the few fans you have know where to find you, then stand well away – behind an awning or poster or something, but still in clear view of the table. Then, when you see someone coming up to the table with your book in their hand, suppress the joy you feel at the sight of this miracle and casually come out of your hiding place. Even if you feel like hugging them, don’t!


  9. Pingback: Gotta love MGB! « Debbie Kahl – Young Adult & Children's Fiction Writer

  10. Joanna Gaudry says:

    Caption for photo: ‘Writers’ skulls. The ones who didn’t heed my advice’. Like the way you’re smiling at their demise, Michael. [what the hell are those things anyway? they look like giant chestnuts or warped walnuts]


    • mgbauer says:

      I like that caption! They’re actually coconuts from a tree in the backyard of our last house. It was very productive.


  11. Scott Chambers says:

    Possible photo captions:
    “How am I supposed to write anything when I’m surrounded by nuts?”
    “Who was it that said I don’t have big nuts?”
    “No, sorry, I don’t *quite* have enough nuts to go round please take your pruning shears and exact your toll from someone else.”
    ps. Do you know Andy Griffiths???


    • mgbauer says:

      Somebody stop him! Yes, he’s one of my biggest fans!


      • Scott Chambers says:

        Hmm, if there’s a law about drinking and posting, perhaps next time I should try and follow it =\


      • Scott Chambers says:

        Sigh … it appears that I have been slower than Bill Kingsley on the uptake of that reference! What’s worse is the realisation that I may well be Razza incarnate. Oh the shame …


  12. I love it!! I have a caption for your photo. ‘Sometimes you may find yourself surrounded by nuts who don’t like your book – best not to imagine they’re coconuts and take the hammer to them.’


  13. Brilliant. I like the Top Five approach myself. Piceans are an inherently lazy however well intended breed. However when my books do hit the shelves, I shall be adhering to your list like Tarzan’s Grip.


  14. Marjorie says:

    No 21. Ignore all of the above and just WRITE. (This No. is for ME and anyone else procrastinating instead of writing).


    • mgbauer says:

      Very wise. I should have added, ‘Don’t waste time writing clever dick lists when you should be working.’


  15. Joanna Gaudry says:

    Love it, Michael. It’s a vicious world out there. Thanks for the survival tips. Joanna :))


  16. Loved this post! Thanks for the laugh. Re: Distracting picture mid stream…Are they not the petrified skulls of the people who didn’t like your books? Just curious!


  17. Peter Cooper says:

    point 2 made me laugh out loud. I’ve now given up saying “please don’t worry about checking spelling and grammar, it’s a first draft”. If it makes them happy that’s all that counts.

    As to point 9, I went to a signing last year where the author (Duncan Lay) actively spruiked his book to passers by. He managed to hand-sell 1000 copies in a month (not as exciting as catching shop-lifters, I grant you).


    • mgbauer says:

      I say that every time to my wife … and then the pencil comes out. 1000 copies in a month is very good going! Might get him to spruik my next book.


Leave a Reply to mgbauer Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s