Some Writing Advice …

Writers come in all shapes and sizes; you don’t have to be published to be one. Some writers don’t even want to be published, content instead to share their stories with their families or friends or a writing group.

I wanted to be published – I’m still ambitious for that – but I didn’t need any particular qualifications. I didn’t have to go to university in order to gain my creative writing degree; creativity doesn’t just get turned on when you’ve got letters after your name. Don’t misunderstand me, please; studying the art of writing can be really helpful, as it gives you the chance to learn from other writers, read a lot, and write in different styles to help you learn what your own style is. But you can also do that in your own time; I did. I read obsessively, and wrote lots of different things; poems (briefly, and not very well), short stories, novels, articles, columns … I tried lots of different things over the years and found the things that worked for me.

The very first novel I wrote, in my early twenties, was not great; I was trying to write for a specific genre that was popular at the time. Spooks was on the TV, so spy thrillers were all the rage, and I wanted to emulate that style; it’s not my natural forte, and I discovered that quickly enough as I ploughed through a plot that even I started to lose track of after a while. I should have tried a different tack, as well as edited it more and sought out more feedback; I’m not surprised that it wasn’t accepted by any publisher or agent, and I’m thankful that I don’t even have a copy of it any more.

I then moved on to another story, where I did things very differently. I wrote in a genre I loved (fantasy), I sought advice (and listened to it), I concentrated on the storyline, and crafted it a lot more closely. I also persisted, and found a publisher willing to take me on. I had three books published with them in the end, and I learnt something with each passing book. Actually, that’s not true; I learnt a lot with each passing book, and I felt that I became a better writer as a result. Not a perfect writer by any means, and I’m still grateful when someone teaches me a lesson about writing, but a passionate one.

When I get to talk to groups about writing, I’m often asked what advice I have for writers. I used to get quite intimidated about giving advice, as I used to worry about getting it wrong. But I eventually stopped worrying, because it’s only advice; I’m comfortable giving an opinion, and you’re welcome to follow it or not. I’m not an expert, because my writing path isn’t the only one; there are many, so seek out lots of advice from lots of different sources.

Oh, and feel free to read my tips … but only if you want to.

Anyone can write. Don’t convince yourself that you can’t, because we are all storytellers. We tell stories to our parents, our friends, our teachers; we’re creative thinkers.

I’ve got a confession to make; I never remember the differences between a noun, an adjective, and a verb. I know how to write a sentence, but I couldn’t necessarily point to the verb. But not knowing which was the describing word doesn’t prevent me from recognising it when it slaps me mightily in the face like a wet haddock.

The blank page is not your friend. It’s scary when you don’t have anything written down. Your mind can often go blank, so don’t let it; write something on the page, and then it’s not blank any more. Write a word, a sentence, or a paragraph; write a conversation between two characters. If it’s not great, you can edit it later, or even delete it, but at least you’ve started.

Read a lot, and read what you enjoy. Don’t be embarrassed by liking science-fiction or romance or thrillers – if the story’s good, it can show you what good writing feels like. If the story’s drivel, you can learn from that as well.

Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Some will be ahead of you, and some won’t have started yet; focus on what you are writing. You don’t have to be the next Dan Brown; you can be the first you.

Don’t wait for inspiration; go out and find it. I once had a short story published after I had a day down the beach with Bryan; we were attacked by a seagull, who snatched a sandwich right out of his hand. I turned that into a story and sent it off to a fiction magazine.

Don’t be fancy with your vocabulary. As Stephen King once said, “My pernicious desire to sound smart” isn’t as good as “I wanted to sound smart.”

Ask people for their feedback, and listen to what they’ve got to say. Don’t be afraid to use it in your work, and don’t be afraid to occasionally ignore it either.

Be concise; “Come in, the water’s lovely!” sounds better than, “He studied the water. People were swimming in the pool and seemed to be enjoying themselves, so he decided to try it for himself.”

Writing is not only for clever people only who have been to university and got a first; we are all storytellers. We’re all creative. Try writing something down; you might just surprise yourself.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Copyight © 2014 MM