7 Things I've Learned So Far, by David Blockley

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer David Blockley. David Blockley is a professor at the University of Bristol in the UK. His book is called Bridges.
Author:
Publish date:

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by David Blockley, author of BRIDGES) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent -- by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

I have spent a lifetime as a structural engineer, which is another way to say I make buildings, bridges and dams stand up. Like other structural engineers, I get somewhat dismayed when others say engineering is dull, boring, narrow and "techy." (What does that even mean?) So I set out to write a book describing the intellectual and practical excitement of engineering and how it is an integral part of being human. I chose bridges as my topic since not only are physical bridges an obvious part of our infrastructure, they can be beautiful, they can be ugly, and they can be neglected. I have written four previous books but all technical and aimed at other engineers--this one was to be aimed at the general intelligent but non-technical reader. I had to learn a completely new way of writing.

Image placeholder title
Image placeholder title


David Blockley is a professor at the University
of Bristol in the UK. His book is called
Bridges,
and is available here. Check out David's
website here
.

I wrote a proposal and sent it off to publishers and agents. At my 20th attempt, I got a pleasant e-mail from the editor asking me to edit my proposal and resubmit, which I did. The result is Bridges: The Science and Art of the World’s Most Inspiring Structures, published by Oxford University Press, March 2010. The whole experience has taught me some valuable lessons, which I happily share below:

1. Persevere. And to do so, be passionate in your belief that what you are writing about is worthwhile.

2. Pay close attention to feedback
--but be robust and try not to take offense. Most criticism has some substance but you have to interpret it in the light of your own view.

3. Find the narrative. This is hard for us technical writers used to writing scientific papers and books aimed at specialists.

4. Find an angle. Mine is: You can learn to read a bridge like a book.

5. Be careful not to sound as though you are talking down to the reader, even if you are trying hard not to. You have to be careful with jargon.

6. If need be, find a non-technical friend who will read and be completely brutal and honest in providing some thoughts on the work.

7. Write and rewrite.
Cut down the text to the barest essential flow of the narrative. Always have a potential reader in mind and write for them--trying to connect with how they see a world quite different from your own. Best of luck!

Image placeholder title


Join the Writer's Digest VIP Program today!

You'll get a subscription to the magazine, a
subscription to WritersMarket.com, discounts
on almost everything you buy, a download,
and much more great stuff.

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. 
Order the book from WD at a discount.

Tension in Poetry: The Hidden Art of Line-Writing

Tension in Poetry: The Hidden Art of Line-Writing

Writer and editor Matthew Daddona explains how to easily create tension in your poems and how that adds weight to your message.

Natalie Lund: On Grief and Unanswered Questions in YA Fiction

Natalie Lund: On Grief and Unanswered Questions in YA Fiction

YA author Natalie Lund shares how she handles the subject of death for a YA audience in her latest novel The Sky Above Us.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 13

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a Lucky and/or Unlucky poem.

What Is a Plotter in Writing?

What Is a Plotter in Writing?

The world of storytelling can be broken into many categories and sub-categories, but one division is between plotter and pantser. Learn what a plotter means in writing and how they differ from pantsers here.

Waist vs. Waste (Grammar Rules)

Waist vs. Waste (Grammar Rules)

Learn the differences of waist vs. waste on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Bridget Foley: On Writing Psychologically Potent Metaphors

Bridget Foley: On Writing Psychologically Potent Metaphors

Novelist Bridget Foley explains the seed that grew into her latest book Just Get Home and how she stayed hopeful in the face of rejection.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 12

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a six words poem.

What Is a Pantser in Writing?

What Is a Pantser in Writing?

The world of storytelling can be broken into many categories and sub-categories, but one division is between pantser and plotter. Learn what a pantser means in writing and how they differ from plotters here.