Tag Archives: Simon Cowell

How To Write A Novel


Novelists are in the wrong profession.

They make lies believable in order to illuminate Truth, when they should be writing self-help books about real-life Process.

That’s because writing novels has as much to do with words and imagination, as cooking a meal has to do with food.

The clue is in the verb, or doing word.

This is the difference between mooning over the magic formula of Donna Tartt’s running routine, and sitting your pseud derriere down at a computer without a Starship Enterprise dashboard of accessories to ease the unbearable agony of tapping on a keyboard.

On Family Fortunes, 78% of Our Survey would say ‘Talent’ when asked what successful novelists have in common- and this would be about 92% true.

What’s 100% accurate of 100% of them is that they have mastered ‘Application’.

Application sounds practical and level-headed and about getting your homework in on time.

Actually, it’s more akin to the fruits of 17 years’ regressive therapy.

So if you’re thinking about writing a novel, consider narrative voice and plot structure.

Finesse your style, envision well-rounded characters, and hone a compelling theme.

Do a course, buy books on your craft, and draw inspiration from writers you admire the most.

Then take all of this impressive papery stuff into your little-used study, and pop it away in a draw.

For the first work to be done is personal.

1. Think Negatively

You are almost certain to fail; embrace this.

You have a greater chance of bumping into David Cameron in Streatham outside of election time, than your fiction has of venturing out of Microsoft Word.

Don’t try to believe in yourself, or mouth affirmations in the mirror: ‘Your voice is unique’; ‘Your conjunctions are beautiful’ etc.

Make peace with the misery of your reality, so that you can enjoy the misery of your journey authentically.

At the heart of tragedy is hope.

2. Be Fearful

If the wannabe novelist’s fear set was matched to a sound, it would be the cowering, whimpering, whingey one of a two-year old narcissistic Emperor.

Fear of not completing.

Fear of completing, and it being rubbish.

Fear of completing, and finding it OK, but others thinking it’s rubbish.

Fear of completing, and finding it OK, and others thinking it’s OK, and then not knowing what to do next.

Fear of disappearing up your own arse while doing the above.

A shrink would rather wave Sean Penn clutching a bad film review into their treatment room, than listen to your paralyzing ‘concerns’.

Fear is an advance paycheck on something that might not happen; try to find a senile benefactor to apply this to your novel in a monetary sense.

3. Make Gargantuan Sacrifices

Just because you have dreams about pouring out the immortal closing sentence of your oeuvre in the shade of Eucalyptus trees, doesn’t mean the preceding 79,962 words will waft out effortlessly in monthly quarter-hour chunks.

Same as going on a diet, what are you prepared to give up?

What’s your battle plan?

It almost certainly doesn’t involve ‘you’ time; withdrawing from your friends’ bank of goodwill over beers, by walking them through your narrative arc; or Box Sets of any sort (and, no, ones based on literary works are not research).

Take every habit and adorable ritual that puffs out your day with perceived value, and pulverize it.

Novels don’t get written in spare time; that’s the preserve of Amazon customer service questionnaires.

And blogs.

4. Seek No Support From Friends and Family

There is a school of thought that espouses the virtues of setting an intention, and keeping motivated by sharing it with as many people as possible.

This comes from the same school that gave you the English prize, and encouraged you to read your moving story out to the class, thereby cementing in you the godforsaken notion that you are a gifted writer, and that after you’ve read to them everyone will clap, with love in their eyes.

No-one has asked you to write a novel.

Few people will want to read it.

Most of those you tell you are writing one will humour you, and tell their partner you’re a wanker when they get home.

Your nearest and dearest will pity-whoop and cheer you on, in the same way as if you were coming last in a marathon wearing a Simon Cowell suit.

Stay silent and secretive.

Better for people to regard you as a waste of space, than as a deluded flunker.

5. Stop Being Kind To Yourself

Unless you have a story that so blindingly needs to be told you feel like the woman at the bus-stop, (only with a gag and a laptop) chances are you think you can wait another day to spill 500 more words of your protagonist’s fake journey.

Self-love is the novelist’s nemesis.

Over-ride every single natural instinct in your body, which is hard-wired to protect itself from all energetic output, including the gym, and thank you letters.

Don’t wait until you are flooded with warm, fuzzy creativity.

Don’t ‘check in’ to see whether this is the right time for you, or decide you’ve got a cold, and can’t think of any good adjectives.

You have no deadline, because nobody gives a flying horse if you write a tome, or not.

In fact, they’d consider paying you not to write it, so then they won’t have to read it, and your failure will throw shards of forgiving light on their own cretinous life.

First, visualize the highest-achieving, most venally repellant person you know laughing in your face, and fashioning the ‘L for loser’ sign on their foreheads in the excrement of John Updike.

Then, be your own worst nightmare; if you feel uncomfortable, and out of your depth, you’re doing something right.

6. Have Fun!

You’re not raking over dead bodies.

Nobody’s life depends on you.

You like language, and made-up stuff.






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Fear is a melodramatic response to the unknown- or Lady Gaga flying Economy.

While it is useful if it stops you shaking hands with a lion, it is mostly triggered at the thought of being left in sole charge of more than one child under five.

Facing down a certain amount of it is therefore healthy, unless you want to spend the rest of your life wrapped around a cushion watching Holly Willoughby taste paella.

The hour of fear’s departure is the very hour of its need- generally 3 a.m, when carrying on to an unlicensed bar seems like a good idea.

As ignoring it once could mean a matter of life or death yet acquiescing too often a matter of death in life, fear-as-instinct is best obeyed; fear on reflection is not.


Hate is the instinct of a whopping tantrum distilled into an essence by the espresso machine of consciousness.

It is a profound sense of personal injustice- whether to the body or the soul- which is why you can feel as much antipathy towards a spear of asparagus as to the person who looked you in the eye as they rolled into your parking space.

Just as preferences reflect individuality, dislikes point to a universal ugliness: nobody loves a hater; one day Simon Cowell will realise this and wake up as Cheryl Cole, which will make people hate him even more.

Because hate is a two-stage process of sensitivity to an unyielding world and self-righteous interpretation you have but two choices: find less things to hate or find things less hateful.


Worrying is an energy inefficient session of macabre fortune telling- a Hummer doing ‘trick or treat’.

If a worry is realised, the time wasted compounds the catastrophe; if it isn’t, the time wasted is gone forever, along with the two hours you spent watching Pearl Harbour.

If you invest in worry as a form of self-protection you will get better returns from a Post Office savings account; if you invest in it as world view you will get no returns at all, as someone will bludgeon you to death with a frozen leg of lamb.

No one ever goes to their death-bed wishing they had worried more but worrying often sends worriers quicker to theirs.

Because worry posits the present self in a future situation rather than the future self in a present situation, all that is left is to sit back, relax and allow a different you to face the future.


Guilt is a faux gesture of atonement, like pretending to reach for the ‘open doors’ button in a lift, when an old person approaches.

It fills the gap between what you want to do and what you should do so you can continue to do what you want to do without feeling like a sociopath.

Concerning the welfare of other people yet being privately indulged, it is entirely bogus- the emotional equivalent of locking yourself in the bathroom and scoffing a KFC family bucket.

Without guilt you are a selfish person; with it you are a selfish person who wishes you weren’t.

The third way is to regard it less as a noun and more as a verb, thereby guilting yourself into taking whatever action is necessary to become guilt-free.


Jealousy is the suspicion that your partner’s least favourite wedding vow was ‘forsaking all others’; or, if you are a polygamist’s wife that, of all the others, you are the one he would most like to forsake.

It is the love child of an overactive imagination and an underactive self-regard, transformed into the Bride of Chucky if the third party is even vaguely attractive.

As it is necessary to prize a person in order to fear losing them, jealousy is not without a redeeming feature.

Unfortunately, super-sized possessiveness is precisely the sort of behaviour that will send them running for the hills.

Because the only real control we have is over ourselves, the best way to counter the projected fabulousness of another in the eyes of the beloved is to maintain the real fabulousness of oneself as their love.


Regret is retrospective wishing, with an absentee genie.

It is the doleful acknowledgment that things could have turned out differently, if it weren’t for that last bottle of wine.

Whether for things done or left undone it’s those moments you’d volunteer to pop out and make the tea during the movie of your life.

With its whiff of remove, politicians prefer it to apology while canny criminals pass it over in favour of remorse.

There are some who have a lot of regrets: these are naughty people with a conscience.

Others think it is important not to have any: these are just very naughty people.

Frank Sinatra allowed himself a few but only for services to the karaoke industry.

The reality is that real regret chooses you and not the other way around so engage enthusiastically in its avoidance or else live to regret it.



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The X Factor

Last night I had the incredible misfortune of tuning into ‘The X Factor’.

Like the curry house at the end of the road, I’ve always known it was there but have never felt the need to make a personal visit.

Very soon I wished I hadn’t, as the hate child of Mary Whitehouse and my father took residence in the place formerly occupied by my personality.

First there is a chap singing. I feel sorry for him because there has been a technical fault and he can’t hear that the sound he is expelling is at diametric odds with the instruments designed to accompany it. Then I feel sorry for the panel of judges because of how embarrassed they will be when they realise the same thing and have to wipe the pre-neanderthal smirks off their slippery faces.

When it stops I am slack-jawed to hear the audience whooping and clapping and the little leprichaun fella at the end talking arrant bollocks about the quiffed mutoid’s quality performance as fast as he possibly can, so that Dannii Minogue can step in because basically no-one gives a flying finger of fudge what he has to say.

Dannii- who capably flew the flag for pre-pubescent breasted girls during her ‘Home and Away’ days- now has a voice worse than a chain-saw being swung around on a rope in an alligator sanctuary and uses it to collude with the leprichaun fella that the violation collectively experienced five minutes previously has been a harmonious piece of entertainment.

This can’t be true- Is this true? I bellow into Bruno’s frightened face- and yes, turns out it IS true because next up is Cheryl stick-to-your-ribs Cole. How can you not love this confectionery of a girl- tacky to the lips if licked and gaudily wrapped but sweet as spun sugar?

The answer is very easily because the false sentiment trotted out by the taxidermist’s masterpieces who preceded her is gospel to this woman, so steeped in vacant phoniness she would be shocked into speaking Latin if a person with real talent ever crossed her path.

At least we can trust Simon Cowell to tell it like it is, I steam through my nostrils. He’s nasty- I know that about him; he’s going to tell this whippersnapper he is destined to be a failure in any profession within a 400-yard radius of the hearing public.

Only he isn’t! He starts to wear the face he puts on when he thinks he needs to talk a Stringfellows lapdancer into bed even though she’s prone and panting in the Four Seasons penthouse suite. ‘Can I just say that when you walked in here tonight I thought you were nervous. But you looked good and you felt confident and it is the God’s honest truth that this is the best you’ve ever been.’

‘What the fuck was he like last week?’ I shout at Bruno, who has started to recoil when he sees me leering towards him. ‘Did he shit on the stage through a colander and feed it to a camerman?’

Then Dermot O’Dingleberry mawks his way through some effluvient bio-matter, thereby demonstrating to the guerning ingrates that yes, it is possible to be a consummate waste of space who wears their tongue between their teeth and bottom lip and still make it on primetime TV.

Followed by another ‘act’ so repellently heinous I am brought to my feet to spew a loose bowel movement of invective at the television. This one comprising four girls utterly void of any human characteristic that could be construed as appealing, ‘just having fun’ by catterwauling and hauling themselves over a troupe of professional dancing desperados, like large transvestite zombies. As if re-enacting a nightmare of the girl you hated most at school, pissed and caked in her own puke performing karaoke at your wedding. Cloned in quadruple.

And again, the panel of judges: sappy, lobotomised, gawping behind make-up trowelled on thicker than a foam mattress of Lurpak butter, poised to pour unctuous praise on their offensive exhibitionism, momentarily risking being fed to the booing lions by one incy-wincy-teeny-weeny suggestion that it might be a good idea if they ‘worked on the vocals’.

Once I have started to breathe again I find the mute on the remote and am grateful to Bruno for the distraction of his bizarre head-led breakdancing performance, which he follows up with some sexily-worded singing that still manages to be a gazillion times superior to anything thus far suffered on the living room consciousness.

‘This programme represents everything that is morally decrepit about our generation,’ I mince through my teeth when the ordeal is over. ‘It is like an apocalyptic presaging of the end of our depraved civilisation.

And I think it is a profoundly inappropriate influence on Bruno.’

Who spends the rest of the evening energised and leaping around in a great mood until bed-time when he looks haunted by an unpleasant memory.

‘Mummy, what means unfiltered excrement?’ he asks.


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Texting is for young people who want sex with each other and need to arrange a time and place to have it. (Or Vernon Kay who wants it but is not allowed to have it.)

It suits them perfectly because it is a made-up language with lazy grammatical rules and they don’t need to fiddle around with those nasty little ink cartridges that stain your hands.

Pity the children of the 60s and 70s who have caught onto its coat-tails, like an embarrassing Mum wearing flares at the school gates. They know nothing of this world, even though their own parents are managing to Skype like bastards.

Talking on the phone is a risky business. It is fraught with nuance and the possibility of the other person Talking For Too Long or Raising an Unforeseen Topic.

Facebook is like cabaret and has rendered emails dry as a bone, not to mention steeped in zombie potential ever since a grubby spin doctor typed about it being a good day to bury bad news.

Texting gets you straight to the source on your own terms: intimate and impersonal, functional and frivolous, it’s the perfect conversation- one where you don’t have to listen, reply or disguise the contempt in your voice.

Even so, women can read more into a text than into the Declaration of Human Rights, eyeballing their phone incredulously, gasping, ‘How are you? What the hell is that supposed to mean? It’s taken him 2 hours and 43 minutes to reply to my last text. How the hell am I supposed to be?’

Regular texters develop a style their regular textees understand and aren’t offended by. It may be exclamation mark-heavy or brutally to the point but as long as they stick to it everyone knows where they stand. In this territory, a typo can spell trubbly and ‘c u later’ a vicious snub if it comes from the wrong mobile number.

That said, vicar texts are always creepy and capitals mean SHOUTING.

Phones too need to be compatible, as any jobbing Nokia scrambling the arse out of an iPhone missive will testify.

Every now and then, in the middle of a text orgy, one party takes it upon themselves to decide it’s silly to do all this texting- we may as well talk.


This changes the level of the playing field and exhibits an ETI (Emotional Texting Intelligence) that is wanting, making them the last person in the world with whom you would want a real dialogue.

Certain textual emotions are universal: the heart skip at the beep alert; the ‘chosen one’ feeling of a message flashing up in silent mode; the confusion resulting from a delayed text agreeing with something you sent outside Texting Real Time, necessitating a laborious scroll through the sent box.

Textual content, on the other hand, can be customised; several decisions must be made: capitals after full stops or lower case throughout- it’s a question of conformity; abbreviations (Wend for week-end) and textspeak (gr8) , a marker of age; use of smiley faces :), hahaha and lol, mental stability.

Predictive text is Simon Cowell: contrived, bonkers and unhelpful if you want to express individuality; funny if you’re pissed.

The most rewarding of the texting lexicon is the truncated sentence: ‘buying tomatoes’ transforms your Mum into a Wall Street trader while firing off ‘am outside’ could catapult even Nick Clegg into The Bourne Supremacy.

And the most controversial? The ‘x’, of course. Or the size, number, lack thereof.

It can re-appear in dreams as a punch in the face or a violation, start or finish a relationship and make a riddle of a post code.

Be afraid. b v. frAd.


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NHS Underhaul

God Bless Barack Obama, a misguided but well-meaning man.

High-quality healthcare for all does indeed sound appealing, along with those special garden centres that give away money tree seeds.

Here in the UK we’ve been letting every Tom, Dick and Harry get ill for free for over 60 years and what has been the result?

They’re doing it all over the place, that’s what.

This Summer large swathes of the British population supposedly chose a ‘staycation’ over a trip abroad.

In fact, many of them were self-harming at home awaiting transferral to the cosy units of London hospitals; there are wings of St. Mary’s, Paddington that are nicer than most coastal holiday resorts. (And the shepherds pie gets delivered to your bed with a glass of squash.)

The problem is not that the NHS is underachieving, it’s that it’s too good.

And this is not the only strain on resources.

There are people clogging it up: patients who aren’t really ill and doctors who are crap.

Neither Simon Cowell’s salary nor an extra tuppence tax on Twiglets from the population at large could change this.

The way forward is a two-tier health system designed to service a two-tier customer base that acts as a deterrent to anyone considering getting ill; deeply segregated, thoroughly unattractive healthcare available to whoever dares use it; a British medical apartheid underpinned by fear.

The Proposal: Stage 1

This involves a simple filtration process at the demand end of the spectrum, as follows:

[Part 1: Medical professionals]

After 2 years of practice a G.P would be required to complete the following mini-survey (surgeons are exempt because there’s not enough of them to get picky about).

1. A patient comes to you looking depressed. Do you:

a.) Note symptoms, explore possible causes and consider counseling referral.

b.) Give them a packet of chocolate buttons (special edition white ones that look a bit pharmaceutical).

2. You are tired at the end of the week and are required to administer important medication to a critically ill patient. Do you:

a.) Summon a replacement doctor or ensure another medically qualified person is present to oversee your performance.

b.) Close your eyes and shoot ’em up humming ‘Everybody Hurts’ by REM.

3. A patient comes to you presenting a set of symptoms you are unfamiliar with. Do you:

a.) Do some research/ seek a second opinion.

b.) Nod knowingly and say, ‘There’s a lot of this going around’.

c.) Assume its meningitis and admit them to hospital immediately.*

(* You are American and doing the wrong survey)

4. You kill a patient by mistake. Do you:

a.) Care

b.) Not care

Mostly A’s: You’ll do.

Mostly B’s: You’re a crap doctor.

Equal A’s and B’s: Answer the decider question below.

5. You kill a patient on purpose. Is it because you are:

a.) Kind and compassionate.

b.) Crap and evil.

[Part 2: Potential patients]

On the day a U.K citizen turns 18 they would be required to complete the following mini-survey.

1.) Are you lonely/old/a parent of a young child?

a.) No

b.) Yes

2.) Do you think most illnesses you have are fatal?

a.) No

b.) Yes, how did you know that? You’ve seen something haven’t you? Is it on my brain? Will it grow really big? How long have I got?

3.) Do you like the sound of your own voice covering every angle of a complaint, even if there are 10 other people in the waiting room who also have lives, for crying out loud?

a.) No

b.) Yes

4.) Do you like the sound of the doctor’s voice covering every angle of a complaint, even if there are 10 other people in the waiting room who also have lives, for crying out loud?

a.) No

b.) Yes

Mostly A’s: You may have a pain in your arse.

Mostly B’s: You are a pain in the arse.

Equal A’s and B’s: Answer the decider question below.

5.) If you were in hospital how many noisy and demanding relatives would come to visit you?

a.) Not many, I’m a hermit.

b.) Hundreds, I am the last of 12 children in a tight-knit, opinionated family.

(Refuseniks of the proposal would receive a courtesy call once every 10 years because these are the people who would not ring the doctor even if they were dead.)

The Proposal: Stage 2

This involves a sabotaging process at the supply end of the healthcare spectrum, as follows.

1. The conversion of 50% of all hospitals into health clubs that sell only carrots and wheatgrass shots at the canteen.

2. All surviving NHS establishments to be ‘made-under’. ie. stripped of wall decorations, magazines, non-essential and most essential medical supplies.

[Note: the prison service have a better idea but the poorer Eastern Bloc countries nail it.]

3. Max Clifford to be retained to seed negative NHS press through all media, with the goal of achieving at least a 20 % increase in the ‘I was left in a corridor without water for 2 hours’ stories and a 20% decrease in ‘I couldn’t fault my care’ ones.

The Manifesto

A healthcare system rendered efficient by the prioritising of critical over bogus ill health. To be achieved by sidelining whingers and incompetents and incentivising the remainder to value prevention over cure by impoverishing the treatment environment.


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If time is money, worrying is like paying yourself for a session of macabre fortune-telling.

It is without hope, sense and purpose.

It is uncreative, uninteresting and energy inefficient- a Hummer doing the school run.

Moreover, it is 100% unproductive, making absolutely nothing happen.

If a worry is realised, the time wasted on it only serves to compound the catastrophe.

If the worry never happens, the time that was wasted on it is gone forever, wafting around the solar system of Crap Things along with Should Haves and What Ifs.

No-one ever goes to their death-bed wishing they had worried more but worrying often sends worriers to theirs quicker.

Worrier Type 1

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