• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

I Just Write by Tony Schumacher

Writing.ie | Resources | Getting Started

Tony Schumacher

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After his excellent article in The Guardian, highlighted here by Derek Flynn on his Writing.ie blog, Published at 46 – An Inspirational Tale for Aspiring Writers, we wanted to find out more from man-of-many-trades Tony Schumacher. As Derek says, “Not only is his story inspirational, it’s also fascinating, as he was a dropout from school who went from being a policeman to driving a cab for a living.” So we asked Tony to tell us more…

“Just describe your writing process and techniques…”

My what?

I read the email again, then I looked at the coffee stains on my desk, and the waste paper basket full of empty M&M’s wrappers (the nut ones, read into that what you will), and crisp packets (all flavours, I’m not fussy when it comes to crisps.)

I read the email again, stared out the window. I then went and made a coffee, then sat down and stared out the window again..

It was then that I realised that after two books published by Harper Collins, lots of magazine articles and a couple of things in the Guardian newspaper: I don’t have a writing process or technique.

I don’t do planning or outlines (ask my agent who is constantly asking me for plans and ideas.) I don’t storyboard, flip chart, or keep a journal. I once tried using a roller-deck system of cards, and then realised it wasn’t 1974 and threw them away. I do wake up in the early hours and write notes and send tens of emails to myself, but I seldom read them (I just checked my email unread pile and there are seventy four emails from myself unopened.)

A few months ago I was listening to a writer on BBC Radio Four talking about his latest book. He mentioned that it had taken him six years to write.

Six years.

If I did anything for six years I’d expect a judge to have sentenced me to it.

So where does that leave me?

It leaves me writing books for living without any barriers to the actual thing which I am supposed to be doing.

Which is writing books.

We all know there are a million and one distractions in life. It might be PPI telephone calls, it might be one of your kids screaming downstairs, it might be a loved one who’s had a long day, or a dog that is desperate for a pee (or a loved one desperate for a pee (this probably only applies if you write in the toilet though)).

You can’t stop these distractions. They are just life’s broken flagstones, you just have to get past them to get where you are going.

Life is hard, and you’re a writer, you think more, see more, smell more, feel more, watch more, and that makes it harder still.

So don’t make it even harder by putting up barriers to what you are supposed to be doing.

Don’t plan.

Don’t storyboard.

Don’t flip chart.

Don’t spend hours researching the cost of toothpaste in 1893.

Don’t buy books.

Don’t download guides.

Don’t buy journals and nice pens.

Don’t buy writing programmes that claim to make your life easier.

Don’t worry if the office isn’t feng shui or the moon is ascending in Uranus.

Just write.

Just bang it out, get it on the screen, strap yourself in and start hitting that keyboard.

Make some words, and make some worlds.

Writing should be exhilarating. You should feel the highs and lows of the people you are writing about. You should look through their eyes, think with their brains, you should look around their surroundings and see things they haven’t even noticed.

You are them, you are all of them. You pass amongst them and drift in and out of their bodies. You feel their touch and you touch what they feel.

Do you remember your first love?

Do you remember how you couldn’t stop thinking about them, wondering what they were doing while you weren’t there? Do you remember the smile when you saw them after being apart? Do you remember when you noticed their freckles for the first time? How their laugh made you laugh and their tears made you cry?

That is how you should feel about your characters.

They should infatuate you.

And if they don’t?

You need new characters.

You should know them as well as you know your husband or your wife, and you should be desperate to see them as soon as possible (unlike your husband or wife).

And nothing that can be prevented should come between them and you.

No plans, no rolls of wallpaper with notes, no emails, no Google, no Daily Mail website, no Facebook, nothing.

When you’ve got your book, then you can start fixing it. It is always easier to whittle wood, than it is to grow a tree. We live in an age of easy editing; we live in an age of cut and paste, spell and grammar checking. So use it when you’ve got a 100k words in your hands.

The only reason I have Tippex on my desk is that I like peeling it off my fingers when I’m bored (although I do occasionally like to write letters on my old typewriter).

I know it sounds trite, but I could have answered that email with three words:

“I just write.”

Your book is a new universe and you are god.

So get creating, you’ve only got seven days.

(c) Tony Schumacher

darkesthour_pb_cover 280x420About The Darkest Hour

The terrible struggle that was WWII is over, the Germans have won and now occupy London, but it s up to a hardened British detective to turn the tables, save someone s life, and achieve what he has believed was impossible redemption in this crackling thriller debut.

The year is 1946. Nazi Germany has conquered the British, and now forcefully occupies the country and controls its citizens. John Henry Rossett, a decorated British war hero for the Allies and former police Sergeant, has been reassigned to the Office of Jewish Affairs. Built on Nazi ideology, it is a department strictly under the control of the SS, one of the largest and most powerful organizations in the Third Reich. Rossett, a man accustomed to obeying commands but also one who has lost everything in the war including his wife and child is given no chance to ask questions, no chance to turn it down. Ultimately, he has no choice in the matter. So he gets on with his job of rounding up Jews, some of whom he’s known his whole life, for deportation.

That is until he finds Jacob, a young Jewish boy, hiding in an abandoned building and everything changes.

Determined to protect the child, Rossett finds himself on the run, the quarry of not only the Germans but also the Royalist resistance and the Communists. Each faction has its own agenda and Rossett will soon learn that none of them can be trusted . . . and all of them are lethal.

Pick up your copy of The Darkest Hour online here

About the author

Tony Schumacher published his first novel, The Darkest Hour, with Harper Collins in the USA and UK in Sept 2014. His second, The British Lion is due Oct 2015. He has written for The Guardian newspaper, the Huffington Post, and various magazines.
Prior to becoming a writer he was a Stand-Up comedian, actor, taxi driver, binman, bouncer and bar man. He was also a police officer for ten years, and once sold underwear in the Caribbean.
He is a regular on both BBC radio and London’s LBC radio, and has appeared on BBC’s The Politics Show. He managed a U in his English O’Level and still feels bitter about it.
He lives in Liverpool, and quite often shouts at the television.
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonyshoey
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