03 January 2020
Start your new writing year right with some of the past year's best advice from Writing Magazine
A lot of us will be thinking of starting a new project at this time of year, so when better to look back at the advice and tips from Writing Magazine and Writers Online over the last year? So before you jump into your new creative writing project, take time out to soak up some of these tips and perhaps seek out some of the articles to make sure you're starting on the right track.
"Everybody has their own methods. From speaking to a lot of aspiring writers, I'd say write what moves you. Write with your inner voice, the one you think with. You have to give the reader a surprise – something they didn't even know they wanted."
Bestselling Irish novelist Cecelia Ahern encourages you to forge your own path
"Writers have to be students of the novel and understand their many mechanisms. You see this in many of the great writers if you read their books in order. Their style changes as their voice develops. They discard what doesn't work in favour of what readers respond to."
James McCreet on how to make your books more appealing to readers
"What is certain is that writing a great book merely marks the start of the author's Pilgrim's Progress along the rock-strewn, pot-holed and winding from publication to bestsellerdom. Or even to any sellerdom."
Margaret James explains how to improve your chances of getting a bestseller
To read any of these articles in full, get your January issue here. And, from this website:
"Just chat. Chat like you would chat to a friend. Or a dog. Or a mirror. Short sentences and colloquialisms weren't allowed in middle school English class, but now they are totes acceptable. It's about finding your own voice, not trying to sounds smart or writer-y. Just write what you're thinking."
Solid advice for all writers from Australian comedy writer Lucy Gransbury, in our Top ten comedy writing tips from the experts
"Remember every book gets written one word at a time... You have to sit there and put a word down. And then another. And another. Just tell the story that's trying to get out of you. Not just because it's a story that's popular now. You have to write the story that's trying to get out, not the story that you think should sell."
Historian turned novelist Deborah Harkness, creator of A Discovery of Witches
• Concentrate on the 20% of clients who provide 80% of your income; ensure you know your minimum hourly rate; branch out into other commercial areas; look for ideas and topics you can recycle or reuse; maximise your writing time.
Essential advice to get your writing business in shape from Simon Whaley
"Every writer needs to keep the standard of what they do well honed. Honest critique is necessary and helped by thorough checking – for instance, reading your work out loud allows you to hear how it flows and spot any awkwardness of style."
Patrick Forsyth helps you get your writing ready to sell or publish.
To read any of these articles in full, get your February issue here. And, from this website:
- Author Stacey Hall explains how she wrote her debut novel in seven weeks
- Top tips on writing horror from author Rachel Burge
"The heroine is essential. She's the pair of eyes the reader is going to see through. It's not easy to get right – the mixture of strength and freshness and vulnerability that the reader is going to believe in. People think they are living the life though the eyes of the heroine or hero, and feel their struggles are their own."
The importance of getting the heroine right in your sagas, from bestselling nostalgic fiction writer Mary Gibson
"Although being disabled can be an important part of people's identities, it is not the only part. Like all people, disabled people are multifaceted. Disabled people are diverse, we come from all races and ethnicities, we follow different religions, and we have different genders and sexual orientations... You should be thinking about all the things you would consider if you were writing a non-disabled character."
Brooke Winters helps you with positive representation of disabled characters.
• Don't make your characters look too much like you, or anyone you know; give them traits you think you have, not ones others might see; act your parts out, perhaps not in public.
Avoid putting too much of yourself into your fiction with advice from Adrian Magson
To read any of these articles in full, get your March issue here. And, from this website:
"One of the things about faerie itself is that the nature of it is all about being in a moment of transformation. Teenagers, who live between childhood and adulthood, are primed for faerie."
Young adult fantasy author Holly Black shares her passion
"Screenwriting may seem mechanical to those of us who came up through prose writing, but the truth is that often screenwriters talk about processes that are relevant and necessary to prose storytelling. We may work on a different scale, and with different practical tools, but at heart we are trying to achieve the same thing."
Polish up your transferable skills with Russel D McLean's exploration of what prose writers can learn from scripting.
"Getting an agent or publisher, while regarded by many as the ultimate goal, is rarely easy. You may have to wait months or even years. You may wait forever. Publishers are risk-averse and wary of investing time and money in unknown authors. I decided I didn't want to wait. Self-publishing is achievable, quick and can cost little or nothing."
Linda Fawke explains some of the advantages of self-publishing
To read any of these articles in full, get your April issue here. And, from this website:
- Read the 10 rules of screenwriting, from BBC Studios Writers' Academy tutor John Yorke.
- And 10 great ways to start a story.
"I started writing anecdotal stories about my life, trying to make it funny, and I'd send it to my friends. I was getting really good feedback, and people said, you should be a writer. I think I needed someone to tell me that I could."
Taylor Jenkins-Reid on building the confidence to become a writer
• Your hobbies; organisations or causes; places you have visited; your job history; sports or musical instruments you play; skills (eg cooking, woodworking); challenges you struggle with.
Finding new ideas for articles, among ten top tips for getting into magazine writing, from Kerrie Flanagan
"Time apart may be exactly what you need to put your problems in perspective. Perhaps you'll see what your novel needs to make it work. But perhaps you'll decide it's time to move on."
Sophie Beal helps you heal it or move on when your novel is breaking down
To read any of these articles in full, get your May issue here. And, from this website:
"I self-published it, and thought if I could get 100 people to download it, that would be good. What did I have to lose? If this book was a load of rubbish it would just disappear. But I thought, this is a pretty good story so I self-published on Amazon to see what happened. And it went on to sell 30,000 copies."
Thriller author John Marrs, who now juggles two publishing contracts for his novel series
• Say yes to anything; be open to new ways of working; cut back on telly, social media and time-wasting activities; collaborate if possible; don't worry if your house is a mess.
Top tips from Tina Jackson, who finished two books in twelve months.
"Be bold when pitching to clients – if you don't believe in yourself they won't either. Charge reasonable rates that work both ways. Don't pitch way above your station but don't undersell your skills either."
Launching your travel writing career with advice from freelance Celia Jenkins
To read any of these articles in full, get your June issue here. And, from this website:
“Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph.”
Roddy Doyle, one of 100 inspiring quotes for writers
"I'm a suspenseful writer. There's very little blood... I dislike writing scenes of violence – it's largely a cliché, and hard to say something new."
Thriller author Jeffery Deaver
"Don't waste time expecting your family to 'understand'. They will not and will only make you feel it's a 'little hobby'.
"Throw out the guilty feelings with the dishwater. Everyone needs to express themselves creatively."
Poet Maggie Pope advises a writer who is reluctant to put writing first.
"If your novel is set in everyday reality you might think world-building isn't something to concern you. But pause for a moment and consider – all fiction is a subset of fantasy, in that all fiction is a work of the imagination. Authors don't just invent characters. They create the fictional places in which they live, work, fall in love and, on occasion, even commit murder."
The importance of world-building in any genre, highlighted by Gary Dalkin
To read any of these articles in full, get your July issue here. And, from this website:
- How to use metaphor and what effect does it have on your readers
- Melanie Blake on how to write a summer blockbuster
"Enjoy it! You'll never have as much fun as you did writing your first book. After that, there's always a deadline."
Sofia Khan author Ayisha Malik
• Be polite; be proud, be realistic; don't give up.
Top tips from book blogger LH Johnson on securing reviews for your books.
"When you write blog posts, your possibilities are limitless. You can write about the joys of walking in the woods, or building a garden shed, or whatever you find interesting."
SpookyMrsGreen blogger Catherine Green on enjoying a free rein.
To read any of these articles in full, get your August issue here. And, from this website:
- How to be a successful writer, by bestselling author and WM subscriber Kathryn Hughes
- How to avoid writing in clichés
"If you're going to be a historian you can follow a well-trodden path. But for me it would be completely pointless. I'm more interested in stories that haven't been told - stories that, if we don't tell them, would be forgotten."
Historical novelist Philippa Gregory on switching from royals to 'real' people in her latest novel
"Many writers write as readers. As readers, we wait for the writer to show us the way and trust that there is a path to follow. When the writer writes as a reader, she sets off blindly towards a vague destination and goes in loops, retracing steps or hitting dead ends. It's the writer's responsibility to know where the reader is going before the first word is read."
The importance of narrative focus, explained by James McCreet
"Just write, and don't worry too much about whether it's all been said – or done – before. Of course it has, but not by you."
Helen Yendall debunks the myth of originality
To read any of these articles in full, get your September issue here. And, from this website:
"Treat anything around you as writing material."
One of Anna Ellory's Ten ways to find writing time each day
"Anyone who procrastinates will find it hard to get published. You have to work, every day, on improving your craft. Otherwise you won't improve."
No-nonsense advice from crime author Vaseem Khan
"Don't feel you have to focus on the science."
Perhaps unexpected encouragement among Alex Davis' ten rules for writing scifi
"Both agents made it a better story. Both made me understand what it takes to publish a book, and both gave me the absolute determination not to give up."
Author KH Irvine, who lost her first agent, and her second, and wouldn't have it any other way.
To read any of these articles in full, get your October issue here. And, from this website:
"The more you fret about being ‘blocked’, the more you risk creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, and staying blocked. And the more you write, the less blocked you will be!"
Don't panic! What to do when you have writer's block
"I’m a big fan of the creative writing course – I’m a product of it. It’s bizarre to suggest that you can’t teach any form of technique. Nobody expects to be able to pick up a cello and be able to play Bach. It’s the same with the novel. Of course there’s a question of innate ability but if you’ve got it there’s still an immense amount to learn."
Novelist and UEA MA graduate Louise Doughty
"Invite all your family and friends, but also ask if each of them can bring a friend or work colleague – a quick way of doubling the numbers. Your publisher will probably be pleased to make a ‘showcard’ advertising the evening, that the bookshop can display. You can get flyers printed cheaply these days that you can leave around town, and you can set up a Facebook event."
Making the most of your book launch with Jane Wenham-Jones
"As you're writing, ask yourself, 'Will the reader still understand what's going on if I take this explanation out?' If the answer is yes, take it out."
Esther Chilton addresses common problems for novel writers, and how to overcome them
To read any of these articles in full, get your November issue here. And, from this website:
"Also, you will find that you don’t need to overdo it – you don’t need to evoke all the senses on every page. It really depends on what you are writing. There may be long sections where you can take your foot off the sensory pedal and others when you need to press down hard – it all depends on what is happening, how you are trying to influence the reader."
Michael Clough helps you understand how to Show not tell.
"It started as an experiment but it’s totally our marriage, our relationship. Our way of exploring the world together. Hard and painful, but extremely wonderful. It’s fun. A properly deeply enjoyable process."
Husband and wife team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French (aka Nicci French) explain their unusual working arrangement
"There are several benefits to being published by an indie. With a limited budget they will be choosing carefully, committed to making your book a success, and you will most likely be involved in pretty much every aspect of publication from editing, to design, to sales and marketing, working closely with the team. This is not to say that bigger trade publishers don’t have the same commitment – of course they do – but smaller indie presses may be able to take more risks as there are fewer overheads, so they are often adventurous in their choices, bringing a greater and more diverse range of books to a wider audience."
Helen Corner-Bryant considers the options for an author torn between an indie offer and aiming for mainstream publication.
"The reality is that publishers prefer a defined genre in order to sell a book, and readers prefer a defined genre in order to make an informed choice."
Supernatural crime author Catherine Fearns highlights the difficulty of writing cross-genre fiction
To read any of these articles in full, get your December issue here. And, from this website:
"It’s much more effective for the reader to be progressively fed scraps of information to build up an intricate picture of a character than read it all in an info-dump."
Learn how to describe your characters effectively