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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What advice do you have for young writers?

Thomas Mann hit the nail on the head when he said:

"A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."

Amen to that!

Every writer stumbles and hits roadblocks. What can help pick yourself up and trudge on is advice from authors who have been there, and overcome the very same roadblocks. 

Below are a few writers I have interviewed over the years, and their answer to my question: "What advice do you have for budding young writers?". Some are wacky, others are practical. All are worth thinking about.

 If you have a good piece of advice, then please share it in a comment. Every little bit helps, after all :)

Don’t be afraid to write and keep writing, but also don’t be afraid to edit. Don’t be put off by rejection – easier said than done! It goes without saying that you should read widely and when you come across something you love, take note of how the author has achieved this. And as I said earlier, enter your writing in competitions. You never know your luck!

Read. Write. Read. Write. And again. That’s all. Just keep being as good as you can be. On a more practical level, read passages out loud so you can hear if they ring true – and if something makes you hesitate or wonder, then it needs more thought. I learned that the hard way.

I’m currently writing in 25 minute bursts with a five minute break in between, just about chained to the desk so I can’t get distracted. It really works, especially for rough drafting. If I can’t think of the right word or I don’t know some historical fact, I just write “something” and go back to it later. Otherwise I can spend twenty minutes looking up the etymology of one word or the price of boat hire on the Thames in 1640 and not write any more for hours.


Read as much and as widely as you can - not just in the areas where you're already a fan but in new genres.

Don't just focus on "being a writer" and living in your own imagination - have another life, another career, that feeds into your writing by connecting you to the real world.

Write a lot, and again, write widely. Try lots of different ways to tell the stories, or communicate the impressions, that you carry around inside you. That way you'll find the forms that suit you.

Get a really terrible job first. I worked on a building site for a short time and it was horrible. When I find it hard to write or just don't feel like it, I remember how it felt holding those bricks around. If you really want to be a serious writer, don’t get married or have kids.

Get a wife.

And also, don’t try to do it all on a laptop. Even is all you have is a laptop, buy a separate keyboard that you can set up to reach ergonomically. Seriously. Look after those tendons. You only have one set.

Keep writing. It’s boring advice, but it really is the most important thing, I think. You need to love writing and keep at it, always practicing and writing new things, even if you don’t get published quickly (most authors don’t)

1 comment:

  1. Get a writing buddy/beta reader/join a writing group. It's so important to get feedback from other people. Also, offer to help them - giving someone else a bit of constructive criticism will help you to identify problems in your own work.

    Never, ever just write a first draft! I know many people who stopped writing after the first draft because they weren't happy with it but first drafts are meant to be bad. It's the second, third, fourth draft (and so on) where the real writing happens.

    Write what you love, not what you think other people will love.

    Take your time and be patient. I've been writing my first novel for over two years. It's far from ready but I won't submit it to agents until it's ready - even if it takes another two years (or more)...

    Take a break and step away from your writing once in a while. It's just as important to spend time thinking about your story as it is writing it. (Note: this is not to be used as an excuse for procrastination).


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