Tips For Writers

There’s no right or wrong way to go about writing a book and all writers have their own trusty methods. These are just things that work for me. It’s not meant to be a list to be followed in any order – just general ideas that may help you to develop your writing.

1) I think it’s important to change the way you read and watch TV or films. Think about what works and what doesn’t and, more importantly, why? If you come across a scene you don’t like, think about how you would improve it and why your changes would make it better. Try to pick out the tricks that writers use to draw you in or build a particular effect. Pay attention to how different writers have different styles. OK – it sounds like you’ll turn yourself into the most boring person on earth but I actually think it makes reading and watching things more fun.

2) On top of this, you can apply this approach to real life as well. Who is the most irritating/weird/ boring/ scary/ attractive/funniest person you have ever met? What little things make them the way they are? Can you remember being really scared or laughing so hard you nearly lost a leg? Use these details to inspire your writing and to make it more realistic.

3) Whenever you get an idea for a character or a setting that might make an interesting premise for a story, make sure you jot it down. Then you can play around with it later when you’ve got the chance.

4) Meanwhile, and I know this might seem pretty obvious, you need to write. One of the hardest things about writing is sitting down and looking at a blank piece of paper or an empty screen so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s like anything though – the more you do it, the better you’ll become.

5) Don’t worry about starting at page one. Write anything. Maybe you’ve got an idea for a character – try to put them in a scene that they’d find challenging, or write their shopping list for them, or describe the inside of their handbag, or just imagine them walking down the street and reacting to what they see. The point is that it doesn’t really matter what you write. These early jottings and exercises might just lead your idea in a new and exciting direction.

6) All the time when you’re doing this, experiment with different voices and styles and ways of getting your story across. You might just hit on something really original.

7) When you’re ready, plan your work out. Make sure each step moves the story on. There’s brilliant advice about how to plan effectively in a book called Write for Children by Andrew Melrose.

8) Be prepared to redraft your work. Be your own biggest critic. Get rid of anything that doesn’t work or doesn’t move things forward. Aim high at all times. Think about what makes your work unique and keep trying to make it as good as it can possibly be.

9) It can be a good idea to share your work with others. Most towns have writing groups or creative writing classes where you can write and share your work. Nowadays there are lots of creative writing forums online. You need to listen to what people say though. Sometimes they might say things you don’t like. Never become upset or defensive. Even the best writers have to listen to criticism. Think objectively about what they’ve said. Have they got a point? If so, how can you improve it? If not, why are they wrong?

10) Be prepared to work hard. It can take years to write a book so you need to keep plugging away at it. You might need to delete or re-write whole sections of it. It can seem overwhelming at times but, if you believe in your idea, it’ll be worth it to make your work as good as it can be.

11) When you’re ready to send your work off, get yourself a copy of The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (there is also a Children’s version). Inside you’ll find a list of all of the agents and publishers in the UK and Ireland. Read their advice on how to submit work.

12) Don’t be downhearted. Even people like JK Rowling and Roald Dahl had their work rejected at various points of their careers. I received over twenty rejections for Socks Are Not Enough before I got lucky. Most of these rejections just took the form of an impersonal printed letter or, even worse, a slip of paper basically saying “no”. I got to the point where it was getting me down but I believed in myself and I kept going until I found success.

Good luck!