The secrets of Jim Crace’s success

Jim Crace offers some advice to aspiring writers. Here’s an excerpt:

It was so nice to be recognised in the restaurant last night. I appreciate you coming across to introduce yourself to me and my wife and was touched that you then went to all the trouble of abandoning your meal and your friends to hurry home for your manuscript. I feel a bit guilty about the little scrape you had with your car on the way back. All in a good cause, I suppose.

I’ll be honest, no, I have not had the chance to read much of the book. What can I say? Maybe your title – The Lizard – raised alarm bells, although normally I am receptive to wildlife fiction. . . .

But, then, what if I had read The Lizard? What use would that be for you? I don’t have a printing press in my garage. Editors do not phone to seek my opinions. And if I showered them with recommendations or endorsed every manuscript that came my way, then you may be sure they would conspire to be in a meeting whenever I called, or out to lunch, in every meaning of that phrase. My opinion counts for hardly anything. I live in Birmingham. You might as well ask your spouse or friend or cousin to read your unpublished books for all the good it will do you. None of them will tell you the truth. They will pretend they loved it or they will affect amused indifference if your success would be threatening. Besides, what if all your acquaintances adored The Lizard? You are still no closer to being published. “Dear Sirs, I enclose my novel for your consideration. All of my seven neighbours think it is wonderful.”


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.