My days are usually very busy but I always try and make some time to learn from prolific authors. Here are some of my favourite pieces of writing advice.
1. Zadie Smith
“Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.”
This is the reason I write when the kids are in school and also why I write first thing in the morning, before other things take over.
2. Kurt Vonnegut
"Every sentence must do one of two things - reveal character or advance the action."
With a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five nonfiction works, with further collections being published after his death. So next time, you edit your work, remember this little gem.
3. Douglas Stuart
“I don’t mean to be too Pollyanna about it but you’re looking for someone [an agent] who loves your work as much as you do. Rejection was just part of the journey.”
Great advice when it comes to handling rejection. And Stuart should know. His debut novel, Shuggie Bain, took 10 years to write and was rejected by 32 publishers before being released and won one of the world’s biggest literary awards, the Booker Prize for Fiction.
4. Candice Carty-Williams
“Think about the reader...holding your book. I always think who do I want to do this for? Is it for myself? I think what would the young Candice want to read? And then broader than that, think of the people you are trying to talk to and all of the people who you’re trying to make feel less lonely because of the things they’re going through.”
This piece of advice can be hugely powerful if you’re struggling with motivation.
5. Hillary Mantel
“Read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don't really need any others, though if you want to boost your confidence, "how to" books seldom do any harm. You can kick-start a whole book with some little writing exercise.”
Setting some time aside to read about the craft of writing can be very motivating. There are lots of other books on writing - I compiled a few of my favourites in this blog post: 15 Books To Inspire Every Author
6. Ken Follett
"I am a great planner and research and planning really go together because I'll be thinking about the way I could take the story, and I'll realise that I don't know enough about a certain topic. And so the next day I'll read a book about that."
Before Follett types the first words of a new book, he spends a year researching. While you may not need such an intensive research period, this advice is a good reminder on the importance of fact-checking - readers can be very unforgiving!
7. Nora Roberts
“Routine is my God. Get up, fiddle, write, write, write, workout, engage with my husband, make dinner, maybe have the kids over for dinner a couple times a month and enjoy the grandkids.”
Setting up a routine helps with procrastination and gets you into the habit of writing regularly. Whether it’s ten minutes a day or eight hours a day, schedule it and stick to it.
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