• Russell Cornhill

A Square Peg


I’m convinced I’m a square peg (in a round hole for those who don’t know the saying).


In what way you ask?

Well, I’m a writer. At least I’m trying damn hard to be one. Yet there are so many ways in which I just don’t seem to fit.

How, you ask? Or should that be how not?

Okay, I’ll quickly look at four aspects, one for each side of the square, but I’ll do them in reverse order: from where I’m least different to where I’m probably most different.


4. There’s that damned thing called promotion. Every author does some promotion, even those lucky few who possibly don’t need to anymore.

I know I’m far from the only one who doesn’t like doing any of it. Personally, I don’t even like the idea of it and have no interest in either the physical ‘book signings’ etc or the online presence. Okay, I’ll condescend and do some stuff online, but really, all I want to do is turn as many of my ideas into halfway readable books before I kick the bucket, feed the worms, meet the maker, ah, die. And that will take some doing, without having to worry about anything else at all.

Not the only one in this category, but it stills makes you feel that you don’t really fit.


3. What about how I write? There are a few aspects of that I can look at here, though I would have to think none of them by themselves would make me too unusual.


  • I write slowly, often agonising over every word. I once read about an author who wouldn’t continue to the next word until she thought the one that she was working on was perfect. Well, I’m not quite like that, but I’m in the ballpark. To make matters worse, I will write something a dozen times in my head before I commit anything to paper (or computer). Yes, I know a page of writing is better than an idea in the head and I am trying to change. Of course, a page of scribble only adds to the pile in the waste basket.

  • One of the first things you are told as a new writer is ‘know your genre’. For me genre ranks as my second most hated concept, just behind fashion. I certainly understand how basic genre assists libraries and those few bookshops around. Yes, it may help readers select books, but I really thought the blurb was supposed to do that. As for all those sub-genres around these days – aaaarrrrgggh! I write what fits my story, my characters, and whatever I’m writing about, and don’t give genre a thought.

  • Another of the things you are told as a writer is to ‘know your audience’. The fact is that I have no idea who my audience is, other than anyone who looks at the blurb and thinks they might want to read it. Actually, the audience I probably want to aim at are the people who are least likely to read the book. That really makes things difficult and isn’t something I can afford to worry too much about.

  • Something that can annoy me is when someone insists on ‘following the rules’ verbatim as if they never really read what was written. 1) When that adverb or even adjective might subtly change the meaning, then it has a purpose. So, forget what that computer program said. use it. 2) When the synonyms you might use for that repeated word aren’t as effective, stick with that word. 3) When the words you’ve used to avoid that cliché aren’t as effective as the cliché, then use the damned cliché. ETC. Judge the purpose and effectiveness of the writing. That’s what is important and something I don’t think a program can ever do.


Again, nothing in there to make me even close to unique, but each one makes me feel just a little different, particularly when you add them together.


2. Writers of fiction usually write because they have a story to tell or wonderful characters they want to write about. Some may have wonderful worlds they wish to explore.

I don’t write for any of those reasons.

I write simply to have my say about this mad world and the crazy humans that inhabit it.

That would fit more with non-fiction, you say.

I’ve hardly ever read non-fiction except to research something. Even at school and college, my reading would normally be skimming the night before the exams.

Oops, don’t tell the kids. Definitely not recommended.

No, I have no interest in writing non-fiction other than short pieces like this and they probably demonstrate that it’s not my forte.

So again, I feel somewhat unusual though probably not unique.


1. Writers are readers.

I barely read any more. In fact, I think I could count the number of books I’ve read in the last twenty years on one hand. Well, if I could remember them. Getting older, you know. Before that I read a lot, though mostly the fantasy or science-fiction that I grew to love in my twenties.

But now I don’t feel the inclination and it’s a struggle when I try, even good books by well-respected authors.

I’ve mentioned this before and been told that I couldn’t possibly write well if I no longer read. Well, I have to say that’s stretching the idea into a bias. Yep, reading might help, but don’t judge until you’ve read what I write. I could even argue that not reading helps keep my mind free to explore my own ideas.

Not reading probably affects me more in terms of relating to my fellow writers rather than my writing itself. There are four or five books out there at the moment that I’d like to read. I think.

Then, finding the time …


Anyway, I’m a square peg in a round hole.


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