The Business of Writing, by Doctor Marilyn Hume (c)

Hi to everybody.  I hope all is well in your world.

I have been getting a lot of requests from people seeking advice on the technical aspects of writing, especially how to get started and the golden rules of what to do and what not to do.

I’ve written a bit of a blurb on the things I found I had to learn, and the rules I had to follow to help me when I was getting started.

The entire article is about ten pages, so what I’ve done is put the introduction here on the website.  If you send me a mail to let me know you’d like the rest, I’ll e-mail you back with the balance of the article.  Best of luck.


Regardless of whether people choose to write as a hobby or as a means of earning a living, and regardless of the genre or the length of your work, certain rules apply.

When I use the word ‘rule’, I do so hesitantly, because rules can be broken for artistic reasons – and they are, constantly.  Some modern writers feel free to cast away punctuation, grammar and even spelling in their search for self-expression.

Regardless, there are rules, and they should only be broken from a position of knowledge.

People who write for a living tend to learn the rules very quickly.


When your work is getting close to being ready for publication, find yourself an agent.  Agents get 99% of the business, and the other 1% is just sheer luck.

Writers are “commodities”.  Your work is not sacrosanct and a publisher can change whatever they want (within reason).  A wise writer chooses when to fight their publisher and when to “cave in” to superior power.  Once a contract is signed, they own your intellectual property and their business is to make profits out of it if there are any to be made.

*    There are styles that publishers use, and formats that you must learn to meet their requirements.   You may even have to use grammatical systems that you might hate.

*    Publishers expect your layout, grammar, presentation and detail to be near-perfect.  Their Creative Editor will make suggestions for additions or deletions, and then their Technical Editor will take the whole manuscript to pieces as they hunt for weaknesses, flaws & errors.

*    If you reach the stage where you are published, the object is to sell your books.  That means you have to consider your target audience, understand them and recognize their existence.  I don’t mean that you have to change your writing style for them, or write in ways that don’t come naturally, but if you wish to be a professional author, then your readership is vital to your success.  There’s no point in writing if no one ever reads your work.

*    Develop a thick skin.  If you are published, someone will catch you out on small details and let you know about it, regardless of the genre.  Some critics will hate your writing – and will say so.  But you have to take it in your stride – for you have no recourse to criticism.  Use it as a learning experience, and accept that you can, and probably will, come under fire from time to time.

The balance to follow on request to mike@mkhume.co.uk