Hints and Tips for Writers
These hints and tips first appeared as part of a book&brew interview following the shortlisting of my novel manuscript The Worry Bottles for the Impress Prize for New Writers.
Enjoy yourself. Seek out what excites you or intrigues you. Explore, play with ideas, have fun. Use coloured pens, draw pictures. Your creative self is far more likely to turn up that way.
Establish a writing habit. The same time each day is really helpful. If you can’t get started, give yourself permission to just do 10 minutes. Often you’ll find you get into it and want to keep going.
Protect your writing time. Switch the phone off, set up an internet block, put a ‘Do not Disturb’ sign on the door or disappear to a writing hideout (libraries are good).
Create space for creativity to emerge. I use a mixture of meditation, chi gung, yoga or walking outside and looking at green things. But it could be running or doing the dishes, anything which helps you to quieten your everyday thoughts.
Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself. What are you passionate about saying? What experiences do you have that other people don’t? It’s your unique view of the world that will provide your authentic voice.
Read widely. Read the genre you are writing in, but read outside it as well. If you like a book, read it again and work out why – analyse the techniques the author has used to create your experience as a reader. Don’t limit yourself to fiction, read anything that engages your interest. Don’t limit yourself to reading, be interested in everything and everyone around you. You are creating a melting pot for ideas to emerge from.
Seek out other writers. They are a wonderful tribe: supportive, inspiring, encouraging and generous. You are likely to feel you’ve come home.
Find the balance between creativity and technique. Join writing groups, read books on writing, attend workshops. Listen to everything people say, then step back and listen to your own instincts. Do you agree? Will this advice help you to say what you want to say?
Don’t be in a hurry. It’s not as urgent as it feels. You’ve got the rest of your life to become a good writer. It’s a journey, so take sandwiches. When you’ve written something, allow it to settle before altering it. Before you write that first draft, allow time for your ideas to emerge and evolve. It’s harder to rewrite a draft you’re fond of, than to abandon ideas which have been superseded by better ones.
Make sure you have an ergonomic writing set up and take regular breaks (e.g. every 30-45 mins). If you start aching, work out why. Your career as a writer will be much easier if you pay attention to the physical demands of sitting at a PC/Laptop, or writing by hand*. The good news is that taking regular breaks will create space for fresh ideas and perspectives.
*If you write by hand, consider a ‘writing slope’.