Advice for Writers – no.1 in an occasional series

  1. Trust the words.
  2. Remember, readers have less knowledge but more imagination than you realise. They don’t know what’s in your head but they can bring your words alive in their minds.
  3. No, really; trust the words. They’ll do the heavy lifting for you.
  4. Disconnect from the internet. If possible, find an old computer or laptop that doesn’t have a modem; write on a typewriter or use a pen and paper. Your productivity will immediately double.


  1. Mr. Albert, I hope you are right about trusting the words. Some years ago I came across Joseph Jacobs’ “Irish Fairy Tales” circa 1898, and a story about a poor wight inhabiting a sliver of land between two fat cats. The rich landholders begrudged the tiny plot owned and worked by their insignificant neighbor (shades of Nathan’s tale to King David after the debacle of Uriah’s managed demise.) I am in the midst of writing a shorter novel, casting one fat cat as smarter – a sharp bargainer – and two poor ploughman, so reversing the ratio, but following the narrative arc of the tale. Dialogue and detail are as close to what obtained in England circa 1500 as I can manage. My hope is to introduce young adult readers to language and setting that opens older literature to them.
    Reading “Edwin” and now midway through “Oswald,” your restrained use of terms and syntax encourages the likes of myself. I’d thought years ago of writing something to portray the flux of living in the culture of Woden/Odin and the like while first bumping into the Way. Lacking both sufficient background in the non-Christian religions and a setting/character to work with, it remained an idea looking for a venue. You have done it. I commend your craftsmanship. Too bad your books are virtually unknown on American shores.

  2. Thank you very much for your kind comment, Dave. I first discoverd the stories of Edwin, Oswald and Oswiu while researching and writing a non-fiction book about the history and archaeology of Northumbria and, learning of them, thought immediately that such an extraordinary true-life story arc must surely have been written about already. But, it turned out, no one had. So I thought I would. I’m delighted to learn that you think I’ve made a reasonable job of telling the tale (and, yes, I’m little known as yet in America, so maybe you might recommend Edwin and Oswald to one or two people you think might appreciate them – word of mouth remains the best way of spreading the news about a new book and author).

    As to your own work, the premise sounds fascinating and I wish you every good fortune with it. Have you read ‘Godric’ by Frederick Buechner? To my mind, this is the supreme example of making the language and culture of the distant past come alive by the use of a language steeped in the rhythms and syntax of the time, yet accessible to modern readers. I commend it to you highly.

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