Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

David Chislett

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Get Some Free Books

All three of my books published thus far are now available for FREE download from my  website.

This is something I have wanted to do for a while now. It is especially important as it is no longer possible to buy physical copies of 2 of them and you have to be in Amsterdam for the third.

The book are available as simple pdf files. All you have to do is head on up to the SHOP tab and click on it. There you’ll see the books.

There is also a bonus give away in the form of 3 illustrated short stories. These are tales from my book A Body Remembered and were illustrated by the illustrious Christopher Moon.

Please feel free to download, send the link to your friends, indeed, spread the books far and wide. Or not. Maybe you want to keep it all to yourself. Like our little secret. I’m cool with that too.

Note that the music business advice books, ONE TWO ONE TWO is now 6 years old and the digital chapters need revising. Also, while written for South Africa and with South African examples, the principles in the book are universal and will help all and any newcomers to the music business to get a better handle on the mechanics of the business outside the music.

It would also be very cool if you signed up for my newsletter. Just drop your name and email address into the fields below the tab on the site on the right which says NEWSLETTER. There is a new book coming and a new project starting, plus a new take on the poetry book, so plenty of goodies still to come. And of course, newsletter subscribers get first hit of everything!

Enjoy the books
Keep in touch
Speak soon

10 Steps To More Writing Inspiration


The Small Quiet Voice Needs Some Small Quiet Time

This is the latest post in the series: The 1003 Writing Tips from my blog.

I mentioned this idea a couple of posts ago. CLICK HERE for the science:

Essentially it works like this: even just doing normal tasks generates some much neuronic noise in your brain that the relatively quiet process of creativity can go undetected amidst the traffic.

The implications of this are HUGE. It means that you may already be having amazingly creative and innovative ideas. But you’re so busy focussing on other things that you cannot hear them in the noise.

What does this mean for you as a writer though? It’s quite simple: you need to create quiet times where you really aren’t thinking about ANYTHING so that you can start to hear the subtle noise of your creative impulse in action.

Highly creative people report getting their best ideas when they are:
In the shower
Driving to work
Working out
What these activities all have in common is that they are not brain intensive. You are following a routine or activity and the roar of your processing machine has fallen silent. Into that silence connections get made.

10 Steps to Get You There:
1) Identify an activity that you know gives you mental peace and rest.
2) Make sure you do it often enough for it to become a habit.
3) Cultivate an awareness of this activity as a wonderful quiet time that feeds you
4) Frame the problems you are trying to solve in your mind clearly and concisely
5) Let them go. Stop consciously thinking about them
6) Get on with your life
7) Do the brain-quiet activity
8) When your mind starts randomly joining the dots, relax, sit back and watch
9) Don’t force it
10) Record your thoughts immediately after

It might take some time for you to get into the flow of it, but it works. Be conscious of this time and the benefit it can give, but do not go into the activity waiting on results. Remember, it’s quiet time, not thinking time!

Never miss another of the 1003 Writing Tips, subscribe to my newsletter by CLICKING HERE

Yes, you’re going to have to re-write it (everyone does)

This piece had to come after my previous post. It sucks balls, but it is so true. And logically speaking, we all KNOW it’s true. It’s just that, man, getting it all down was such hard work anyway, wasn’t it?

Why do I say logically we all know that re-writing is inevitable? Well, because every single writer I know is insecure. Therefore, their first and primary worry is that nothing they do will be good enough right? Therefore, everything will need to be re-written and corrected and fine tuned, right?

Weirdly enough though, for many writers the insecurity they experience about their writing doesn’t extend to the fallibility of their first draft. Is this arrogance or ignorance? Politely, I will fall on the side of ignorance, although, as mentioned above, logic would dictate that it is arrogance.

There is something achingly sweet and romantic about this notion that many writers have that how they first wrote something is the best, perfect and complete expression of the thought they had. As if it is a mist that, under the heat of scrutiny or adjustment, will dissipate into the day light, never to be seen again.

But when your fingers are typing your last thought, and your mind is already onto the next two or three, accidents happen. When you re-read your own work, it is all too easy to see what you MEANT and not what you actually WROTE. It is also far, far too easy to see only things through the lens of your own experiences, beliefs and intentions and not accept that others may read the exact same words and extract very different messages. If you have a specific message, your language needs to be so accurate that you reduce possible mis-interpretations… and that is really not easy. Tin fact, it’s quite a kill to pull off while your brain is 3 sentences ahead of your hands.

So, accept it, suck it up and agree like a good writer. You’re going to have to re-write
And it’s in your benefit
Accept guidance.
Maybe when you’ve got a few projects under your belt, you’ll be better at it all.

From the Blog series: The 1003 Writing Tips on my site

Editing Is Not Writing

Almost every author I have met who has started a novel that is not yet finished is making the same mistake: They are all bogged down at around chapter 4 or 5.
Because they are editing everything as they go. Dotting every T, crossing every ‘i’ and writing and re-writing every sentence until it is perfect.

This post is part of a series called The 1003 Writing Tips

There are a few theories as to why you just can’t do this but let me just be clear up front:
Long-form writing is a complex and interconnected web. Part of what makes any single part right, or good, is how they connect to the other parts. No part can really be seen as perfect in isolation. But this is what you do when you polish and re-polish your prose. You are trying to get each and every part to be perfect in isolation. Stop it.

Focussing so much on each and every detail really gets in the way of you seeing the big picture of where the entire work is going. You’ve heard of not being able to see the wood for the trees? Yeah, that’s it.

Stop being so god damn afraid. The REAL reason you are doing this is not because you are a perfectionist, or meticulous or OCD. Those are all lies. You’re just plain old, white knuckle ordinary SCARED! Scared you’re not good enough, not original enough etc etc etc. Admit that and move on to the next step.

There is also the left-brain versus right-brain theory. Writing is creative, which is right brain activity. Editing is rational, logical and process/rule driven, which is left-brain activity. It seems that, if you switch consistently between the two, the creative process becomes derailed by all the rules and forms. You scare it back into the shadows. You effectively get in your own way.

Related to this is that, on a micro-neurological scale, the activity of creative thought is a small, still voice somewhere in the recesses of your grey matter. The spontaneous creative association of thoughts requires very few neurons to fire, creating very little disturbance in the white noise of your everyday life inside your skull. Following rules and guidelines requires many neurons and much focus, which tend to simply drown out the small, creative insights. This is why you have great ideas when driving, in the shower, when your conscious mind is ‘elsewhere’.

A lot of this may sound impossible to do. It really helps if you have some sort of plan… a map to the story that you want to write. As Benjamin Franklin apparently liked to say, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Planning and plotting are the keys that will allow you to just write and leave you free to worry about the editing later.

Luckily, I have written about planning already. You can read about it here.

The 1003 Writing Tips

My new blog series, the 1003 Writing Tips is a series of articles that covers the day to day challenges that all writers face: whether you are in communications, writing a novel, a poet or a song-writer. It forms a sub section of my website, and you can find it here:

The number itself is random…a bit of a joke really. I chose it to poke fun at click bait titles… The 5 Things You must Know about Women! OR The 7 Top Tips of Millionaires! Writing is such a personal activity that I don’t think there can be a definitive list of tips, and the name for the series of blogs is meant to reflect this.

I have been posting a tip a week since November 2015, and the archive has built up nicely. There has also been some really interesting feedback which I am in turn writing about. Writing is a solitary activity. It is also a much-romanticised one. I started the series for two reasons: Firstly, to share my experiences with others so as to break that traditional isolation. Secondly because writing about these things makes them clearer in my own mind… it helps my process.

So far I have written about note books, having a regular writing slot in your day, the importance of reading, how helpful planning is and a good few more.

The rest of the list includes handy things I learned from my career as a journalist, as well as publishing a book of short stories and another of poetry. I share lessons from other writers, tips from friends… in short, anything that might help other writers feel less alone and less like they have no-one to talk to about these things.

It’s true, I am no Stephen King. But I have made a living from writing since 1995 which is no mean feat in its own right. This blog series is also about just that: it’s not about the international publishing deal and how to get rich. It’s about getting the most out of doing something you love as well as you possibly can.

Readers can also subscribe to my email newsletter and get the updates in their inbox once a week. Head on over to, look for the NEWSLETTER banner in the far right hand column, fill in your name and email address and presto, you have subscribed. You will then receive a confirmation email with a link to a free illustrated short story download.

The 1003 Writing Tips:
Enjoy it!

Improve This Skill For Better Writing

Critical thinking skills are not something that modern schools in most of the world are big on. It’s either learning things off by heart or being swayed by someone or other’s opinion. Teaching our kids how to actually reason: how to break an idea down, follow it to its conclusions (and not stop where we are comfortable, regardless) is something that many, many adults are not really capable of.

As a writer, you can’t be one of those adults. You’ve really got to think things through. Thinking is an under-rated activity. Indeed, one or two of my earlier writing tips posts may well be taken as advocating doing over thinking.

It’s true, I am a fan of actually acting instead of just thinking and dreaming. But the things is, this world seems to have too many thinkers who do not do AND too many doers who do not think. What we need more of is people who think carefully and thoroughly about what they intend to do. As a writer this will save you from insanity.

Thinking is a wonderful activity. Playing out scenarios, exploring what if’s… generally going off to play with the fairies for extended periods. It’s the perfect antidote to the all-too-real worlds of Facebook, TV, tabloids and gossip that we swim in the rest of each and every day.

Try asking yourself What if…. a little more often.
What if social media dropped out of fashion… like tomorrow. What would people do? Excellent thought.
What if cell phones started spontaneously interacting without networks thanks to some CIA hack gone wrong? No more phone bills……
What if we discovered intelligent life out there and it was, well, way more intelligent than us.
What if Tesla DID discover free energy?
What if you COULD fall in love with a prince/ss?

When you’re out, drinking coffee, watching the world go by, look at people. Really LOOK at people. Who are they? WHY are they happy or sad? WHY are they dressed that way? What’s the story of HOW those two people are together? Make up the tory. You have the clues: clothes, facial expressions, physical proximity. Learn to drink up details and THINK about them. What do they mean? How do they fit together? How ELSE could they fit together? Put your grey matter back to gym and exercise it.

The more you think, the better you get. Just like everything else in life.

Handy Hack
When casting quick story sketches use the 5 W’s and an H to flesh to your thoughts. In your sketch answer the 6 questions:

The 15-Minute Challenge

It goes like this:
Sit down at your computer, with your note book.
Clear your mind
Take a deep breath.
Now, think about what you’re going to write about today.
Write down the first sentence or idea that pops into your head.
Read it twice.
Now, start writing about that sentence. Do not stop to correct, re-read or double check anything. Just keep writing without pausing for 15 minutes.

Why do this?
To prove something to yourself. To prove that you always have something to say about just about anything that you can think of. To prove that you can write, that it does not evade you. Sure, today it may not have been Shelley or Yeats. But you wrote. And in writing you honed your craft, you added to the pile of experience. You had to think about things in a clear, logical way that led to sentences. Maybe the absurdity of your first thought was so extreme that you had to think about stuff you normally refuse to. That’s also good.

Sometimes we need to prove to ourselves that we can actually do what we already really know how to do. Just pushing a cursor across a page with words is one way of reminding ourselves that we are writers. Just filling a page with letters and sentences reminds us of what we do.

If you are blocked, uncertain or confused, use the challenge on some of your ideas. Explode each idea in 15-minute bursts. Don’t get all attached to them. Just do it to see what comes out. It’s a way on unpacking what else is going on in your mind around those ideas. Sometimes an idea gets in the way of writing. It lies like a bite too big to chew, stopping everything else from happening. The challenge forces you to unpack it, roll it over in your hands, see what goes into it, what makes it up.

The challenge is great for poems and songs. 15 minutes is just enough to get down a range of ideas, impressions, images and thoughts that can be turned into a song. It can give you skeletons of short stories. It can give you micro fiction, book outlines, talks, speeches and more.

The more you do the challenge, the less the rationally conscious portion of your brain will interfere… its gets all automatic and familiar. This is when truly surprising things surface from the depths of your mind, like twisted and scary dreams you never remember in the morning. Except this time you’re awake. Positively Jungian I tell you.

Your 15 minutes starts…. NOW!

Follow my 1003 Writing Tips on my blog at: www.davidchislett.com15minutes


Want To Write? Read!

I am often surprised to meet writers who do not read a lot. It confuses me on a few levels.
Firstly, if you don’t read, who do you think is going to read what you WRITE?
Secondly, if you don’t read, how do you know anything about writing?
And thirdly, if you don’t read how do you know what to write about?

books and digital reader

There’s no shortage of things (or ways) to read

It’s true there is nothing new under the sun, but it is also true that it is a colossal waste of time to write about something that has already been done over and over and over. If you don’t read, you’ll never know where the gaps are, the differences, the opportunities.

We are not born with a writing voice. It emerges. It emerges through our experiences of life, from what influences us, from what we read and what we write.

Reading gives you balance and perspective, it can save you from being a self-righteous ass and an ignorant buffoon.

Reading gives you time to be alone with nothing more than YOUR thoughts, exploring worlds that were, that might be or could never ever be. And it teaches you how to tell the difference.

By just reading you can educate and improve yourself. You can answer almost any question you care to think of and you learn to be discerning, self-powered and proactive.

Today, everything is shorter, faster, simpler and easier. We turn to the short, the simple and the easy when we’re looking to solutions. But with writing, it’s not that easy. It’s true, you could write something fast, simple, easy and short. But it would very probably not be true. It would also last about as long as the career lifespan of your average Idols winner.

If you want to write you must first READ!

Not just your twitter feed, although that’s a good place to start. Read your idols, read ABOUT them. Find out who influenced them, then go and read those people too. Musicians, poets, authors, scientists. They all come from a wide, extended web of influences and shared ideas. It’s just not possible to drop, clean, new and unconscious onto such a web and survive.

Follow the trains of thoughts back to the stations they came from as well as to their destinations. Don’t be satisfied with the quick, current explanations. Find out who did the original version of the cover of the cover that you hear on the radio.

In this fast changing world, stand out a little. Know more, READ!

Keep up with my tips on writing over at

Bad Writing Is Good Too

Every creative industry has its myths. Music has its rock n roll myths, art has its, as does movie making and dancing. In writing, there is this idea that some people can just write well and never write anything bad. This myth also holds that if you can’t get it out right first time, you’re doing something wrong.

It’s good to write bad stuff, or to write good stuff badly. Really, it is. That way you get it out of your system. Watch yourself, read yourself. Be aware when you are writing badly. Analyse why it doesn’t work, learn from it. But don’t try and stop writing badly. You won’t be able to. Even when you’ve been writing every day for 30 years it’ll still happen and you should still be glad.

The thing is, every bad piece of writing you have done is now out THERE and not inside your head. This is important for a few reasons. Number one: if it’s outside your head you can now look at it more carefully. Is the piece bad because you wrote it badly? This should mean you can edit and fix it. This is OK, at least now you got the idea down and later you can come back and work on it.
Read the rest of the article by clicking here.

You can follow my series of blogs on writing here: The 1003 Writing Tips

Top 5 Best Reasons To Write Every Day

The advice to write every single day has been given to most people thinking about trying to make something of their ability to write. It is simply the best advice for FIVE very good reasons.

Get Writing Fit
Most people don’t really spend much time writing in their daily lives. A book can be anything from 20 000 words for a short non-fiction, to around 80 000 for an average novel to a couple of hundred thousand for really in-depth non-fiction and speculative fiction. So, to write a novel, you need to write 1000 words for 80 days. And that’s just the first draft. That’s assuming everything you write is on target and useable. Call 3 months for the sake of symmetry. That’s a lot of work. You need to be writing fit to be able to do that.

Get Better
Writing is just like everything else: the more you do it, the better you get. If you write something every day, you will write an awful lot of rubbish. At first. But you will see that, over time, the rubbish you write on your worst day is better than the medium stuff you wrote on your best day 6 months ago. Just like playing golf, cooking or anything else in life. Repetition really does improve your skills.

Read the rest of this post and the series, 1003 Writing Tips on my blog here: