Broken Pieces

AFN Clarke – How To Approach Writing A Book?

How To Approach Writing A Book?

by AFN Clarke

I’ve seen countless books or articles on “how to write a book in 6 easy steps” and most of the time, though I know they can be useful, they smack of a formula that is antithetical to the creative process and to an author finding their own unique approach to writing.  Every author I have ever spoken to has a completely different way of writing a book. Some write “on the fly”, some plot out the whole story first.

Personally, I have been told my “stream of consciousness” way of writing is the craziest of all but it works for me and so I guess I must be just a little insane!  I never plot out my whole book on paper.  I do have an idea in my mind of the overall story, a primary focus and the major characters who’ll drive the action. But once I start, the story and characters take over and write themselves.  They take on a life of their own as they are, for all intents and purposes, real people and real people react differently to the world depending on their personalities, emotions and life histories. So as their personalities develop so does the story. Often even I am surprised at the twists and turns that appear on the page and yet to me this is a very organic way of writing and mimics our human experience. I can’t force a character to be the way I want them to be – I can only “listen” and “reveal”.

But let’s go back one step, because there’s an important element I missed. Before I write the first word, I have to settle on the title and design the cover.  I can’t write without either – the cover design especially.  Being a very visual person for me the cover is the visual embodiment of the whole book.  It’s like a vessel, the context from which I can then proceed. So for me, page 1 of my book is not the opening line but the cover. Everything flows from there.

My way of writing isn’t easy because I am always holding so much in my mind – every nuance, twist and turn, the whole book as it progresses swims around in my head and weaves together into the unique tapestry that I tap out on my keyboard everyday.  And I’m not easy to live with then, distracted by living more in my “book world” than the “real world”.  So if you’re anything like me then cherish your loved ones, as anyone who puts up with you is rare and precious!

So how does someone new to writing find her/his own unique approach? It sounds corny, but the best advice I can give is – just start!  Do what feels most comfortable to you – describe a scene, start talking as one of your characters or an observer looking back on the story – and see where it takes you.  Then think about what felt good and came easily and what you felt you were forcing.  Learn to check in with your emotions and trust your instincts.

There is no right and wrong way to write. Some authors barely use verbs.  Some use two word sentences, some very long never-ending sentences – it’s what you transmit, what you can evoke in your reader’s imagination and have them experience that’s important in the end. There are many ways to get there.

AFN CLARKE is the son of a British MI6 operative, pilot, sailor, screenwriter, father of four who’s lived all over the world, served in the British Army and recovered from the physical/emotional traumas of war.  His bestselling memoir CONTACT was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film.  He’s insatiably curious, loves heated discussions and has a rascally sense of humor. He now writes fiction of various genres – thrillers (The Orange Moon Affair and An Unquiet American); human drama (Dry Tortugas), humor/satire (Dreams from the Death Age; Armageddon), horror (Collisions) with more coming soon.  For more information visit, connect on Facebook or Twitter (@AFN Clarke).

This new expanded edition of AFN Clarke’s bestselling and controversial book CONTACT is a raw, visceral, “no-holds-barred” account of combat from one of the men we paid to kill. When first published it caused a furor for its devastating honesty and chilling revelations.

Clarke vividly recounts his experiences of two tours in Northern Ireland (in Belfast and Crossmaglen) as a Platoon Commander with Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment during the blood soaked 1970′s. Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan comment on how relevant the book still is today, as the dangers, political agendas and religious roots underlying the conflict are eerily and heartbreakingly similar to their own more recent experiences.

Clarke takes us to heart of the action.  We feel what it’s like to live each day with senses on high alert, waiting to be ripped apart by the accuracy of a sniper or a well-hidden bomb.  We enter the private world of soldiers ordered to hold the lines in an ancient quarrel they have little affinity for, but whose consequences are deadly.  We experience their emotions, fear, courage, humor, bravado and the anguish of death.

This expanded edition continues from where the print version ended, revealing the untold nightmare Clarke lived through having nearly died, with half his insides missing, suffering from PTSD and being expected to return to a “normal life”.  A story of the scars of war that affect generations.  Of heartache, courage and hope for peace.

“I am an ex soldier who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and this is an excellent account of what it was like. I only wish we had an officer like Captain Clarke.” pm, 5 Stars Amazon UK“.. its honesty and passion cannot be denied .. Mr. Clarke has sent out a powerful and disturbing early warning signal.” Maurice Leitch, Daily Telegraph.

“..a major contribution to our understanding of war and how people act .. Contact is the work of a brave writer.” Kevin Toolis, Irish News.

“As a civilian it’s hard to imagine what’s it’s really like to be a soldier in combat but this book opened my eyes. I highly recommend it …” KTHuffy, 4 Stars Amazon USA.

CONTACT was reviewed by soldiers who served with Captain Clarke as verification of his recollections.  It was first published in the UK in 1983 by Martin Secker & Warburg, was serialized for 5 days in The Mirror and became an instant best seller. In 1984 it was published in paperback by PAN Books, by Schocken Books New York and made into an award-winning BBC TV film.  And in 2012 came the expanded ebook edition, which all these years later is still selling strong.  Readers outside the UK are invited to visit for soldier’s reviews and comments.

AFN Clarke is a full-time author and writes fiction of various genre – fast-paced thrillers (An Unquiet American), poignant human drama (Dry Tortugas), humorous satire (The Book of Baker Series - Dreams from the Death Age; Armageddon; Genesis Revisited), psychological horror (Collisions); and the Thomas Gunn suspense series (The Orange Moon Affair) with more coming soon. Visit the Amazon Kindle Store or for further information.

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Genre – Autobiography / Biography & Memoir

Rating – 18+

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