In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.
Twelve writing tips:
- Writers come from all walks of life, so don’t be discouraged if you haven’t had a’ good enough’ education or don’t come from a privileged background. The two main ingredients an author needs are a vivid imagination and life experience. If you possess those then you are on your way.
- Never copy another writer’s style. Use your own unique voice and creativeness.
- Write about what you know, and what you don’t know research thoroughly. Readers will pick you up over the slightest inaccuracy and, however small the misdemeanor, this could result in spoiling the whole story for them.
- Make your characters three dimensional by showing the reader what has forged their personality. If they are shy, did they have an oppressive parent? If they are spiteful and resentful, a sibling their parents favoured more than them? Or were they just born with a chip on their shoulder? Regardless, we need to know how to empathise with the character, whether we are supposed to like them or not.
- Don’t set out to write a book under the impression that it’s going to make you instantly rich the moment it hits the shelves. It is the exceptional few that achieve the huge advances. Most writers’ careers take time to establish as readers are built up over a period of time.
- Never be afraid to explore all possibilities when your characters are faced with a life-changing situation. Explore all of the paths they can take – don’t just settle for the one that is easiest to write. Writers continually need to push themselves to the limit to keep their work fresh and page turning.
- Start your story with a punchy beginning to entice the reader into the story right from the first sentence. They don’t want to hear that ‘it was a beautiful summer’s day and the butterflies were dancing on a soft breeze.’ They want…’This couldn’t be happening, it wasn’t possible, not after everything they had been through together, but her eyes were not deceiving her…’
- Never pad out your story with side plots that are irrelevant to the main story line as readers could lose interest in carrying on – and they certainly won’t be buying your next book. Make every word count!
- Never use coincidences to move your story forward. If some characters all need to be in a certain place at a certain time, make them arrive there in a plausible way.
- Believe in yourself and your abilities because if you don’t no-one else will. When writing my first book, I knew people thought me mad to be wasting my time on something that people of my ilk would never achieve. But I didn’t listen to their scoffs as my inner need to write drove me on. Had I listened, I wouldn’t now have twenty-nine books published with a thirtieth on the way!
- Be prepared to graciously accept criticism about your work… you can’t please everyone, and everybody has a right to an opinion whether it’s favourable to you or not.
- The shelves are packed with amazing books written by amazing writers but there is always room for another! Be prepared for long solitary hours leading into months, maybe even years, of hard labour to learn your craft; many sleepless nights as your brain won’t shut down trying to work out your plot; knowing people think you have delusions of grandeur in believing you could be a writer; and for many rejections until that one agent or publisher sees your potential. But if your drive and determination to write that story overrides all else, then what are you waiting for?