Over the past 6+ years interviewing authors there has been some great tips shared in answer to “Are there any writing tips you could share with new writers?” It’s a shame that they’ve been languishing in the shadows when there is an array of awesome writing tips for beginners that might make a difference to someone starting out on their own writing journey.
I’ve spent time going back through my interviews and if an author has chosen to answer this question, you’ll find them in this series of posts.
The interviews go back to when I first started interviewing in 2013 (the interviews in this series start with the most recent). I’m sharing the author’s Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads link so that you can see what they’re up to now.
Of course, what has worked for one writer may not work for you but if you read through the tips, you will see common themes (as well as some conflicting advice – bear in mind that these are things that have worked for individual authors). If you’re looking for inspiration or a boost then you might just find it!
(This is the first part in a five part series. More writing tips for beginners will be posted every Wednesday).
I would encourage new writers to get hold of a copy of a book on writing. There are loads on https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/store/writinghandbooks and this will help transform that little acorn of an idea into a might oak of a finished book. I had always struggled to finish the first page, and then I bought a copy of The Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray & Bret Norris. I followed all the exercises and this helped me write my first book: The Most Curious Case of the Runaway Spoon. I used it as reference material for Mozzarella Bella too.
Always either be polite or say nothing. Don’t fight with reviewers. Don’t tell a blogger/reader/anybody else that they “just don’t get it” or worse. Those people gave your book their time and often money as well. It’s not just because of you needing to appear professional (which you do) or because editors, bloggers, reviewers talk to each other (which they do). You have nothing to lose and everything to earn with a simple “thank you” or, if you couldn’t disagree more, saying nothing.
Terry Lynn Thomas
This is a good question, and I’m going to share the secret to a satisfying life as a writer: Don’t give up! It takes a long time to learn to write fiction. (At least it did for me.) Most people write a book (or three), and if it doesn’t get them an agent or a publishing deal, they give up. You need to keep writing. Have a canon of work behind you, even if it’s not yet published. In order to do that, you have to take joy in spending time alone to craft stories. Writing can be a lonely job, unless you really love it. Keep working, keep developing your craft. Do it because you love it and enjoy the journey.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is how important it is to take your time. Before I sold my first book, I was desperate to get published—and terrified that I never would. My mental health took a major nosedive during those frantic years spent sending query letters to agents, because I viewed every day that passed without some sort of publishing success as an utter failure. Looking back, I wish I had taken better care of myself. I was always so afraid that if I didn’t write quickly enough, someone else would write my book first, and better, and get published while I was still struggling to find an agent. Now I know that the important thing is not speed, but rather allowing yourself the time to develop your own unique voice. Once that’s in place, other people will have no choice but to pay attention.
Rejection is an occupational hazard for any writer. You have to put your work out there in order for it to reach an audience. Try not to get downhearted when the inevitable rejections occur. Take pleasure in celebrating your own successes and the successes of others. Be generous in sharing opportunities that are presented.
Read as many novels as you can. If you enjoy them, analyse why. If you don’t, ditto. It’s worth taking the time to develop your characters. If readers have no interest in them, they’re not going to read on. Show your work in progress to family or friends. If there’s a consensus of opinion, it’s worth taking it into account. Be prepared for rejection, but persevere and don’t give up. It took me quite a while to find an agent (working my way through the Writers and Artists Yearbook!) but it was worth the effort. The advice, support and encouragement of a good agent is absolutely invaluable.
Twitter – @pennyingham
Write. Just write. Don’t worry about it all being good. Some of it will be, some of it won’t, but that doesn’t matter. Every word you put on a page will help you become a better writer.
My number #1 rule of writing is: Write like no one is ever going to read it. Why? Because then you aren’t watering down anything with fear about what anyone will think. My #2 rule is: finish your article/essay/memoir/book. It’s the thing that separates those who want to make a career of it from those who actually do. Those who do it as a career finish—again and again. Also, surround yourself with the people you need: other writers to take this journey with you. Mentors, advocates, and encouragers who will remind you not to take everything so seriously. My husband is this person to me—the one who reminds me, when it seems like everything is falling apart, to have fun. Because writing is a lot of work. If you’re not having fun, your reader won’t either. And then what’s the point?
I teach writing from time to time, and the number one tip is simple: if you want to write, you have to read, and you have to read in the genre in which you want to write. The second tip is just as simple: you must write. You can’t become a professional athlete without practicing (and, yes, some built-in talent), and you can’t become a professional writer without practicing (and, yes, some built-in talent). Read, read, read. Write, write, write. All authors are trying to solve the same problems in their stories. As you read, try to figure out how the authors you like do things like fill in background information, introduce characters (and make you care about them), describe settings, and pace action scenes. Then, every time you write something, try to make it the best thing you’ve ever written. Along the way, look for opportunities to get feedback from readers, attend writing workshops, and all that kind of stuff, but then get back to the two most important things you can do: read books like the books you want to write…and then write.
The best piece of advice I ever heard was from crime writer Priscilla Masters. She said: if you want to write a book, write a book. And it really is as easy and as difficult as that. Find the time and get scribbling. It might take you a month, a year or five years, but keep at it and eventually you’ll have a complete story.
First of all, just write and read and read and write. When you write, forget about the annoying monkey sitting on your shoulder, telling you you’re writing rubbish. It’s hard to be a judge of yourself. I would recommend joining a good writing group that offers constructive criticism. Read your work out aloud – you will hear what is wrong. Don’t be too possessive about your writing. If you are aiming to be published, then you need to understand that not everybody is going to be your reader. And, finally, write from the heart.
The main tip I could offer any first-time novelist is to finish your novel. I know this sounds obvious, but in my experience, I believe you will only take yourself seriously as an author by making it happen and writing The End. Completing the first draft is the hardest part, but if you keep going to the end, at least you can edit later and start planning your next. I was fortunate to have my first completed novel published in ebook, but I know lots of writers who have completed several before being published. It doesn’t matter what route your writing path takes however because every completed novel is an apprenticeship to becoming a professional novelist. Having a critique by a professional writer or editor is my next tip.
I find my writing flows best if I write every day. Even if I don’t think I have anything compelling to write, I try and get to my desk every morning by 7am and get some words down. I try not to beat myself up about word counts unless I have a deadline. I trained and worked as a violinist, and I feel that, although practising the violin is physically and mentally different from writing, they function in similar ways in this regard. I can feel the difference if I’ve had a day off – my creative mind stiffens up and my words become stilted and clumsy, just as my fingers start feeling like sausages if I haven’t been playing. So my advice? Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.
T A Williams
Never give up. It sounds obvious, but it’s vital. Even though I’ve now had fifteen books published, the first 20,000 words of a new book are always a challenge. And time and time again I reach a point, normally around the 50,000 word mark, when I seriously question whether it’s worth continuing. Writing a full length book is tough. Don’t let anybody tell you different. And once it’s written and you set out to find a publisher or agent, unless you’re very lucky, you will need all the stamina and resolve you can muster as the rejections start coming in. NEVER GIVE UP. Remember that.
My biggest advice is always to write at your own pace. Since I became involved in the writing world, I’m inundated with writing prompts and challenges and people boasting about #NaNoWriMo results and daily word goals. I say forget that noise. If you write slow, even just a few words a day, then so be it. If you write like lightning, that’s fine as well. A proper story will come to you, and if it doesn’t than is it really worth writing? And even then I hear people say “life gets in the way. If I don’t set a goal I’ll never write” but to that I say, shouldn’t you be dealing with life first? I love writing, but not at the cost of what’s happening in my life.
Thank you to all the authors who I have had the pleasure of hosting. You rock!