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Goodreads asked Mike Billington:

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Mike Billington My father was an engineer and he always wondered when I was going to get a real job. In his mind, writing wasn't actual work, it was just something that you did when you had to send a letter to someone.
But writing is work, hard work. I know that for a fact because I've been earning my living as a writer since I was 15 years old and I can attest to a lot of sleepless nights and sitting down at a keyboard for so long that my back aches, my fingers are cramped and my shoulders have knots in them. I can also attest to the fact that writing is mentally exhausting. Real work? Oh yeah, writing is real work. So, now that I'm well into my 60's and have been doing this for more than half a century, I'd offer this advice to anyone contemplating a career as an ink-stained wretch.
First: Be a good reader. My first editor told me that to be a good writer you had to be a good reader and she advised me to spend at least 30 minutes every day reading something that had absolutely nothing to do with my job. I took that advice to heart and have followed it throughout my life, even to the point of always carrying a couple of paperback books in my rucksack when I was on patrol in Vietnam. Reading exposes you to a wide variety of storytelling techniques, builds your vocabulary and stimulates your imagination. Oh, and it's fun too.
Second: Learn to spell and learn the true meaning and proper usage of the words you use. There is nothing more annoying that reading a book, a newspaper article, a script or even a graphic novel that is heavily seasoned with misspelled words. Worse, in my mind, are those books I read in which the author has been too intellectually lazy to learn the difference between simple words such as "there," "they're" and "their" or "weather" and "whether." It's not that hard to learn the correct words and, hell, computers have Spellcheck. There's no excuse, therefore, for using the wrong word in the wrong place or misspelling them.
Finally: Write. If you want to be a writer then you have to write, preferably every single day. The fact is that good writers aren't born, they're made. Any writer worth his or her salt will tell you that there is more to telling a story than stringing some pretty words together. Your stories must be more than a splash of beautiful words; they must also have a point, a message, intriguing characters and continuity. How do you learn to give your stories those vital ingredients? You do it by constantly practicing your craft. If you're not willing to do that then my suggestion would be to find something else to do with your life because becoming a writer isn't really where your passion lies.

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