One of the visions of Dirty Bristow is to allow talent room to develop, be it trying a writing style you’re not used to, pushing your word limit or world views, or, for many, writing something for a wider public for the first time (ignoring the occasional blog post*). We are absolutely open to any submissions and suggestions so if there is a blog you read a lot, or someone you know that writes and writes good, put them in touch or tell us about them and send us their website/email so we can ask them (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Our editoral policy is one of gentle watering and a sunny shelf rather than an ugly diesel lawnmower. What that amounts to is if we think we can help we will—by sending notes back, hopefully nudging you in interesting directions. Of course we edit for house style, but that’s hopefully it. The house style is the uniform way of presenting the language and grammar throughout the magazine, for example: is the number ‘fourteen’ written or just the numerals ’14’? We follow the Guardian style guide as a shortcut but don’t worry too much about that as we will clear that up for you.
But there are some things we have found that help when writing, and, hopefully, in the least patronising way possible we would like to share them with you:
Know yourself : some people work better in the dead of night, some so early you get to see the mythical creatures some call ‘postmen’. Some prefer to sit in front of the telly, some, like Danny, work well in a pub. The key here is to be honest, the romantic vision of an insomniac writer putting the world to rights on an antique typewriter may be appealing, but if all you produce is Red Bullshit, finger cramps and blotched copy, it’s time to change.
Read everything: It’s no coincidence that the best writers are ferocious readers. The internet counts but don’t forget magazines, newspapers, menus, shampoo bottles, pamphlets, leaflets, bus tickets and those book-shaped things you sometimes see in shops. See how the language is used to manipulate your mood, the pace and the tone. (Jon says: while I agree with this, it’s often not helpful to read stuff too much like what you’re aiming for—you become a parodist. Try to read something that bit different when you write. I find George Orwell, master of the art of pruning extraneous words, a fantastic palette cleanser after too much flowery language.)
Keep a notebook: It’s not an exaggeration to say the best novels have never been written. Lost because the idea happened in a man’s head on a bus in between thinking about Wolverine and boobies, or just before someone else fell asleep, or while jogging but then a dog in a hat walked past and the idea was lost forever. Notebooks are also useful for jotting down snippets of overhead conversation, observations that will add colour and depth to your writing and just simply get you used to turning your thoughts into language.
Writers write: everyday, no exceptions. You get better by doing, start a blog, keep a diary, anything.
Read it back aloud: seriously, if you get to the end of a paragraph and your face is blue as your lungs desperately suck in oxygen, then consider some full stops. There can always be more full stops. (Jon says: There can always be more full stops, but there can never be too few exclamation points, if you can’t transmit the imagery without! shouting! you aren’t doing it right.)
Wait a day: If you’re happy with your bit, leave it a day, just close it and come back twenty four hours later. Seriously. If you’re anything like me you will want to send it straight away desperate for peoples approval “look I’m good at something aren’t I, aren’t I” but stow that urge and leave it a day, the next day with fresh eyes I guarantee you will find at least three things you know you can improve.
‘Kill Your Babies’: this is a writers maxim that isn’t as horrific as it sounds, it simply means that if you scratch your piece in the blood of children your writing will be imbued with the throbbing power of Satan. Okay that’s not what it means; it’s to remind writers that sometimes, for the sake of the flow or pace of a piece you may have to cut something you’re happy with. Don’t worry, your talent isn’t a precious thing in a magical forest, you don’t only get fifteen great sentences in your life. Think of it more as a muscle, the more you work it, the better you get and the more boys/girls/boys and girls/octogenarians (delete as applicable) will be attracted to you.
Find someone you trust: now, first instinct is to trust anyone that says anything nice, this is neither helpful or honest. Whether you choose to listen to the critisim is your choice, but seek it out anyway.
We are nice guys that just want to make the best magazine possible, and as we are putting ourself in fiscal uncertainty as much as making ourselves severely time poor, we must enjoy it. Don’t be afraid to send us first drafts, requests for help, or even if you just want to get in touch to see if your idea is any good.
A note about poetry
We don’t really understand poetry. There’s poetry we like, Rambaud, Wordsworth, Byron, Morrissey and some others, but we’re not quite sure how it works—which means that we can’t tell if poetic works submitted to us are ‘any good’. We don’t have the training to offer feedback, so all you’ll really be able to get from us is a yay or nay. And that decision will be based purely on our prejudices and whims, so bear that in mind and don’t take it to heart.
We’re open to all types of work though, so submit away.
Except for haiku. Haiku seems to be a middle class trope that when used badly does nothing but attempt to showcase “education” and a smug-zen anti-materialistic attitude. Whatever vision they’re trying for we see nothing but a slow wank into a John Lewis pestle and mortar, Jamie’s recipe for organic cock juice pesto.
*Yes, we here in the entirely fictional Bristow Compound still slavishly adhere to calling a single item on a blog a ‘post’ not a ‘blog’. It’s a personal decision and we don’t judge people that do**.
**Yes we do.