Our friends at Totally Random Books are touring cyber space with three awesome authors. Their first stop? Movellas. Here they each share the best five writing tips.
Amy McCulloch's five:
Every writer I know approaches their craft in a different way, but here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way… I hope you find them helpful!
1) Write constantly - Before I dreamed about writing my first novel, I was writing all the time: I kept a journal (and later, a blog), I wrote letters to my friends instead of texting, and I made up stories about my day with my little sister. Without even really thinking about it, I was racking up at least 1,000 words a day, and developing my own natural voice and style of communicating. All good practice for eventually writing my novel.
2) Write for you - You are the only person whose reaction you can control – so write things that make you happy, and many one day someone else will enjoy it too. The Oathbreaker’s Shadow started out as a story I really wished someone else would write so I could read it… but, as it turns out, the only person who could tell this particular story is me.
3) Write with abandon - Don’t worry about your words being perfect first time. They never will be. Write without worrying about every sentence and paragraph, safe in the knowledge that you can always go back later to make it better. That’s what editing is for.
4) Write with friends - My writing improved dramatically when I started letting other people read my work. Obviously I believe strongly in ‘writing for you’ (see above!) but eventually you have to learn to let your story go. Better yet, if those early readers are writers too, they will understand your pain, and hopefully you can help each other grow and improve without being unnecessarily harsh. Plus, it’s great to have friends that share your interests!
5) Read, read, read - This is always my favourite writing tip, because it’s the one thing that helps me most. Reading lays the building blocks to a great story so they come much more naturally to you when you’re finally ready to write that novel. Great books are the best writing teachers. Seek them out!
Emma Pass's five:
1) Read – and not just in the genre you want to write in. For example, I write thrillers, but read a lot of contemporary YA, as this genre contains some of the most fascinating characters you’ll ever find between the pages of a book. You can also learn a lot from reading books you don’t like. And reading widely helps you stay informed about what’s already out there, and what’s current. (P.S – if you can’t afford to buy lots of books, join your local library!)
2) Try everything – genre-wise, that is. When I first started writing, I thought I wanted to write thrillers for adults. Then I decided I was going to write crime novels. No, wait – literary fiction. Or should I try short stories? What about poetry? Hang on! Picture books… I was no good at any of those, but if I hadn’t tried, I wouldn’t have known these weren’t the genres for me, and I wouldn’t have discovered YA. Everyone has their own writing ‘thumbprint’, but it takes time to find it.
3) Let other people read your work – but choose those people carefully. You need someone who you trust to read your work objectively, and can point out the good bits but who isn’t afraid to tell you what doesn’t work (without being nasty about it). ‘That’s lovely’ is the kiss of death for an aspiring writer, but so is having your work torn to shreds. My husband is always the first person I ask to read my work, as he is very good at constructive criticism.
4) Have fun! Writing can be hard. It can be lonely. Sometimes, it can be downright scary. But if, deep down, you don’t love it, why do it?
5) Keep going, because it’s the only way to get better at what you do, and you never know what might be about to happen. You could snag an agent with the next manuscript you send out. That publishing deal could be one book away. But if you don’t write it, how will you ever know?
Karen Mahoney's five:
1) I know this is on most lists of writing tips, but the Number One piece of advice as far as I’m concerned is to READ. Read, read, and read some more. I don’t mean to just read books about writing, either. I mean read as much fiction as you can, widely, and from all genres – not just the one(s) you want to write in. Also read non-fiction, on anything that interests you – and maybe even on subjects that you didn’t think you’d ever be interested in! Think of your brain as an endless well of inspiration: if you constantly fill it with good writing by other people, you will learn from them and find yourself writing so much better without even realising it.
2) On the subject of reading, this one gets its own tip because I think it is so important: study myths and legends, folklore and archetypes. I personally find them a huge source of inspiration for my own writing.
3) Write down every idea you have. Anything at all, no matter how silly or outlandish you think it might be. Even if you believe it’s an idea that has been ‘done to death,’ make a note of it in a notebook or a computer file especially set aside just for collecting ideas. You could also use this notebook (or computer file) for keeping track of quotes that interest you, or that spark something inside of you. Ideas beget ideas. Treasure yours, and never feel that you have too many. You can never have too many ideas.
4) When you choose one of your ideas to develop – an idea that you want to turn into a short story or a poem or a novel, test out that idea first. By that I mean, ask yourself: “Is this really the story I want to tell?” If it’s a novel, for example, you’ll be working on it for a very long time so it had better be an idea you’re passionate about! Make sure you’re writing what’s in your heart, and not just what you think people will want to read. If you write with integrity (i.e. be true to yourself), then your writing will also have integrity. Readers will believe it. That’s important.
5) Oh yeah, and the last one is to WRITE. Did you think I’d forgotten about that in a Top 5 list of writing tips? ;) Of course you do need to write, and you should try to write as often as you can. Even if you can only carve out 15 minutes a day, five days per week; or perhaps just a couple of hours every weekend; any time you can commit to practising your craft is time well spent.
So, what ideas will you be incorporating into your writing routine? And what are your five writing tips?