Posted on September 22, 2008 - by MG
I was looking through a copy of the author information pack, which Scholastic made for my school and library visits. (We’re planning a couple of school visits when I’m in Perth, Western Australia three weeks from now.)
To my surprise I noticed that apparently this Website contains advice to writers. Hmm…well once in a while maybe. Mainly I direct serious aspiring authors to join an online community for more in-depth info and support.
But I thought I’d make a bit of an effort just for once. Over on the Writers And Artists Yearbook website is a regular feature called ‘Inside Publishing’. There are monthly interviews with famous novelists. That old chestnut comes up in most interviews: What advice would you give to aspiring novelists?
I compiled some replies:
“To write! Five minutes of writing a day is better than no minutes. Too many new writers think that unless they have plenty of time, it’s not worth booting up the computer or sharpening that pencil. But think of it, instead, like practising scales on the piano before tackling that Beethoven Concerto or like warming-up in the gym – the more you prepare for writing, the better shape you’ll be in once you have time to really concentrate. ”
“Write about the thing that really obsesses you — you need to feel possessed to get through the long, hard journey of writing a book. And don’t give up when it gets hard in the middle. The middle always feels impossible, as if you’ll never finish.”
“I think that many novelists at the beginning of their careers spend far too much time writing and then tinkering with their first book. My advice is to write a book and then immediately go on to the next one and to the one after that. In other words, the more you write, the better you will become.”
“Seriously, it’s very boring, but you must write at least 10 pages a week otherwise you’re not writing, you’re only playing around. I got very good advice early on about having a plan, writing a sort of scaffolding out of your 15 chapters – and writing the last line of each chapter in now. That’s meant to stop you rambling on and on and gets some pace into the book.”
“Have have faith in your abilities, and the confidence that you have a story worth telling. But be open to advice and criticism. You need perseverence and a thick skin, and you also need a measure of luck. I’d been getting published for over 10 years before I ‘made it’.”
All terrific advice. As for me I’m still working on it. I tell children who ask this that they should read widely, with equal respect for literature and commercial novels, comics etc. (Unless you respect the genre you can never hope to write in it).
To that I think I’d add the basic advice to just write. Write stories if you’re ready. If you aren’t ready to invent stuff, don’t worry that will come. Write letters instead, or emails, or keep a blog. Your ordinary life is a story.
I wrote many letters when I was a child, to my father in Mexico, telling him about my life in England, my friends etc. He loved getting them, and it made us stay very close even though we only saw each other every other year and rarely spoke by phone. (And he wrote me, like four letters EVER. It was a one-way conversation, but deeply appreciated, I know.)
But it also, I think, provided a regular outlet for developing my writing, from the age of 7 and right until he died when I was 20.
Obvious, really. Yet I hadn’t connected the letter-writing with any burgeoning writing talent, maybe until just now…