How Not To Be An Ex-Pat Writer by Ewan Lawrie

Posted: July 13, 2012 in Friday Guest
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Some of this may surprise you, but please bear with me!

1. DON’T get yourself into a position fiscally where you have time to spend writing every day.

I retired from the military, got myself a part-time
job teaching English. Hmmm…. what to write about?
Write what you know! Of course, people are
desperate to read another of ‘Those Funny Andalucians/Provencales/Vietnamese’ sub-standard memoirs about unhelpful locals and tongue-tied retirees from Blackpool and Bognor. Okay, don’t forget you might have time to write, but will you be able to write anything people want to read?

My advice: don’t give up the day job.

2. DON’T live somewhere exotic/inspiring.

We’ve all read Chris Stewart’s Driving Over Lemons. How hard can it be? No-one tells you that hiding away in darkest Andalucia means you’re not so available when it comes to sending manuscripts or maintaining a broad-(in the least broad sense of the word) band connection to send your submissions to the agents and publishers who actually accept an e-submission. Ah… manuscripts. We British are always inclined to complain about the Royal Mail. I’ll never do it again. It’s not the deliveries that are so random, rather the collections… from main Branch Offices.

My advice: stay where your market is – unless you’re moving to Berlin or Barcelona.

3. DO self-publish (but…)

Yes. Why not? Type up your word document, convert it to PDF and upload it to Bubok/Lulu/the on-line POD publisher of your choice. You don’t need it proof-read, do you?  Well, no. If you’re one of those rare creatures with superb spelling, superlative syntax and great grammar. Even if you have, your precious book will emerge as a horrible hodgepodge of misplaced indents, crazed paragraphing and inexplicably blank pages – if you don’t get someone to look at formatting your document so that it can be typeset properly.

My  advice: pay someone to do both, even if you’re self publishing.

4. DON’T market to the huge number of expatriates living wherever you do. (But they all read, right?)

Well, up to a point. A look around the charity shops and second-hand markets of Southern Spain shows that in recent times there are fewer and fewer stalls dedicated to books. The worst phenomena that occur in UK publishing: Ghosted Celebrity Autobiography, 50 Kinds of Dire, Pastel-covered Chick Lit, all appear in microcosm on the few stalls that have books for sale alongside that broken toaster and a pre-flat-screen era TV. Some of these books look brand new. They may not even have been to the beach. DO a local pub-quiz and count the full marks awarded in the Literature round, if there is one. On the Costas themselves, count the red-tops on display next the stuffed donkeys and cheap flip flops. Your magical realist fable is going to be difficult to crowd fund here.

My advice: Start a book club and a Creative Writing group. The same people may be in both, but nothing ventured.

5. DO get properly connected.

Yes, I know you’ve got a computer. If you are not a social networking whiz, find someone who is. Join something like Ether Books or Jottify and get tweeting/Facebooking: become an e-mail pest and start annoying people into liking/reviewing/even buying your short-stories. These sites are about networking, the more people you can interest in what you’ve written the better.

My advice: Spend treble the time (at least) on marketing as on writing. It’s no good writing a ground-breaking novel if no-one reads it. You can be Jack Kerouac (15 years to get On the Road  published) or E L James. You decide.


I haven’t done anything right. I am in the process of taking my own advice. We’ll see if it helps.


Ewan Lawrie lives in inland Southern Spain. He teaches English to a selection of bemused Hispano-phones and writes in his spare time. He has pieces published in various anthologies which actually have ISBNs! He has a novel which has been on the cusp of being ‘taken on’ for so long now he has written three quarters of a sequel. He is a member of too many writing sites and has won an occasional prize or two, when he can find something that has not already appeared on line to submit.

You can try Ewan’s attempt at self-publishing complete with eye-watering typesetting.

His unit-selling collection of short-stories ‘Please Allow Me’ can be found on Jottify.

He has several short-stories on Ether Books, if you are rich enough to have an I-Pad or I-Phone, some are free. Hunt in the drop-down menu of writers for Ewan Lawrie.

Ewan’s occasional blog.

(the blog owner reserves the right to disagree with some of the above)

  1. rebeccaemin says:

    Really enjoyed reading this. Great humour – and don’t think us Brits aren’t jealous of you sitting there in the sun, Ewan!

  2. ewan lawrie says:

    Well, I must admit, I don’t miss the rain.

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