Fabulous Writing Advice From John Connolly

Writers Write creates writing resources, shares writing tips, and interviews authors. In this post, we share another one of our interviews with John Connolly.

Author: John Connolly
Date: 30 July 2016
WhereThe Bowery, Sandton, South Africa
Interviewer: Mia Botha

Writers Write hosted best-selling author, John Connolly for a literary dinner – A Winter’s Tale – at The Bowery in Sandton.

John Connolly is an Irish writer who has published 17 novels. He was born 31 May 1968. He is best known for The Book of Lost Things and his series of novels starring private detective Charlie Parker.

John was an inspirational guest and kept us in stitches for most of the evening. You can read the condensed version of the interview below, watch it on YouTube, or listen to our podcast, which includes jokes, giggles and lots of anecdotes. Just add your own wine.

1.  Describe your writing routine, if you have one.

Art comes out of craft; craft comes out of hard work. Out of hard work comes discipline and skill. You have to practise, it is not something that comes easily and if you have to set it aside for any length of time you become rusty. There is no point in waiting for the muse to strike. The muse is busy. If you’re not home when she calls she will go somewhere else.

2.  How do you do it?

You need a target for every day. Most writers have a second job and that job is writing. I am lucky I can support myself with writing, but most writers support their writing by being accountants. It has to become part of a daily routine. Set yourself a very easy target, say 200 words a day. You can do it in your lunch break or wake up half an hour earlier. It has to be something that is done regularly. It has to become part of a routine.

3.  What is your daily target?

I try to write a 1000 words a day. When I revise I do a chapter a day. There comes a time in the middle of a book when I will go away for ten days and write 3000 words a day and not talk to anyone apart from ordering alcohol.

John Connolly with prize winners, Sibongile Zulu, Kerry Askew, and Lucy Jansen. Prizes courtesy of Writers Write and Jonathan Ball Publishers

4.  Where do you write?

In the beginning I was very precious about where I wrote. I had to be in my office, but I have learned to take my writing with me. I can write anywhere.

5.  Do you plot?

You mean books or against other people? No, I don’t. I might know the opening 1000 words. Only after that will I know the next 1000. I like the process of discovering the book. It can make writing quite hard. One of the reasons why not plotting is difficult is because every book I have ever written I wanted to throw out after 20 000 words. All 28 of them. We start with enthusiasm, but that fades and then you get the siren call of the new idea. If plotting helps you stay on track, by all means plot.

6.  Do you ever doubt your story or abandon your books?

I doubt every book I have ever written. If you don’t have any doubt, you are a sociopath. Doubt is part of the process for me. If you abandon things you set a pattern. You have to finish things. Most books are abandoned between 20 000 – 40 000 words. If you reach 40 000 you will finish the book.

John Connolly was interviewed by Mia Botha

7.  When you wrote your first Charlie Parker Novel, did you think of it as a series?

No, you are a psychopath if you do. I was so surprised when it got accepted. It had been rejected by so many editors, but I persevered. Only around the 5th Parker novel did I start thinking about it.

8.  Do you have a plot for the series for future books?

I am a sensible man, I go to the doctor to have my workings checked once a year, so yes I know how to end it or conclude the larger plot.

9.  What annoys you the most about Charlie Parker?

That he is so much like me.

10.  According to your press release you have worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a gofer at Harrods, which career has helped you the most to write novels and create characters?

I’d say journalism, because it taught me I can write even if I don’t feel like writing. Writers do a lot of jobs before they become writers, because they can’t conceive of themselves as writers. Some of us become writers through luck, pure resignation or because we have become unemployable. Journalism taught to write when I didn’t feel like writing, it made me a good hack and it taught me that anything can be researched.

John Connolly chats to his fans, Justin Denysschen, Emma Pinnock, and Hélène Pinnock

11.  You write a YA series with your partner, Jennifer Ridyard. What have you learnt about writing from her?

How to plot. You can’t collaborate if you don’t plot. You can’t write a book with someone else if you can’t tell them what is going to happen. It was very hard for me, but I do think the series is better for having been plotted.

12.  What do you think about self-publishing?

Time is the friend of writers. We like instantaneous responses and self-publishing gives us that, but authors should focus on their craft; not on the money.

You are every character in your books – John Connolly

For more photographs from the event, click here

We first interviewed John in October 2006 and again in August 2012. We’re grateful he agreed to visit us again in 2016. Follow John Connolly on Facebook and Twitter. Visit johnconnollybooks.com.


Listen to our podcast, which includes jokes, giggles and lots of anecdotes.

If you want to read more of our interviews, click here

Posted on: 4th August 2016