Tips For Writers from Sally Nicholls, Author of ‘Things A Bright Girl Can Do’

Today on Heart Full of Books, we have the pleasure of hosting a spot on the Things A Bright Girl Can Do blog tourIf you haven’t heard of TABGCD, we’ll give you all you need to know: it follows three girls and their fight for women’s votes. They come from vastly different economic backgrounds, and two of them even fall in love. Gay Suffragettes, I mean, come on? Do you really need to hear anymore? If that still hasn’t convinced you to check it out, then know that Louise O’Neill (as in Louise O’Neill, author of deeply feminist and totally kick-ass Asking For It and Only Ever Yours) is calling it:

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Now, you’re all caught up, Sally Nicholls has some writing advice to share!

Sally: Most of these tips are very boring – you’ve probably heard them a thousand times before. That’s because the business of writing a book is boring. If anyone has ever told you to only write the book you NEED to write or if it’s hard, you’re doing it wrong, then those people don’t know the first thing about writing. Writing fiction is like any other long project; a report, a dissertation, a house refurnishment, a revolution. It takes a long time. Sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes you hate it. I tell kids in schools it’s like doing the same piece of English homework every day for a year. Because sometimes it is.

  1. Writers don’t own time-turners. I know, gutting right? But they don’t. Writers have families, and jobs, and elderly parents, and social lives, and partners, just like you do. I’ve lost count of the number of people who tell me they don’t have time to write, and it always makes me want to shake them. Do you have time to see your friends and partner? Read books? Watch television? Surf the internet? Cook dinner? Then you have time to write. Neil Gaiman famously wrote Coraline in fifty-word chunks in the time he would otherwise have spent reading before bed. I have a friend who wrote her first novel while at home with two small children, on the basis that she was going to be this busy for the foreseeable future, so she had to do it now or never.
  2. Make writing one of the most important things in your life. I’m not saying it has to be the most important thing, but it should definitely make your top three. When you have a spare half an hour, writing should be a very strong contender for what goes there. I like to blame writing for my messy house and unwashed dishes, but let’s be honest – I was messy long before I was a writer. I just have an excuse now.

  3. Read. This should be obvious, but it isn’t. Read lots. Read widely, read genres you wouldn’t usually read, definitely read the genre you want to write. If you want to write horror films and television, watch horror films and television. If you want to write poetry, read poetry. It all goes in, and it all comes out somewhere.

  4. Write what you love. Not all science fiction writers have gone to space, but they all love the idea of space. Write about the things that get you fired up with excitement, and they’ll get your readers fired up too.

  5. Follow the market, but don’t be lead by it. It’s a good idea to stay current in the area you’re trying to write, partly so you can get excited by all the great stuff that’s being written, but also because crime editors really, really don’t want any more dull Agatha Christie rewrites, and children’s books have moved on somewhat from Enid Blyton. Also because when your weird obsession suddenly becomes popular, you want to know about it. On the other hand, don’t write something just because it’s currently popular. See 4.

  6. Hate your books. Seriously. If you don’t hate something, how will you ever spend the months and months (oh, god, the months) editing it? If you can’t see all its flaws, how will you fix them?

  7. Love your books. Every author secretly thinks this one is going to be The One. Why? Because why else would they ever spend the months and months (seriously, the months) writing a first draft.

  8. An idea is not the same thing as a plot. Again, not always obvious, but it should be remembered. In a hole in a ground there lived a hobbit is an idea. Not a plot. And a wizard dragged him off on an adventure to rescue a treasure from a dragon? That’s a plot. Once there was a boy who didn’t know he was a wizard? Idea. And he had to defeat the greatest dark lord the world has ever known? Plot. Make sure you have both before you start writing, or you’ll get stuck halfway through chapter one.

  9. The ability to string together a decent sentence is a tiny, tiny part of what is needed to be a professional writer. There are a lot of people in the world who were good at English as kids. Probably a couple in every class in the country. Most of them aren’t professional writers. It actually isn’t that difficult to write a competent paragraph. Plot, story, character, pacing … these are all much harder. And harder still …

  10. Be a professional. Put in the legwork. Research publishers and agents. Read their submissions guidelines. Write professional-sounding covering letters and synopses. Send the submission to every agent in the yearbook. And when they all turn you down? Get started on the next thing and do the same again.

Good luck!

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Review: Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice by Beth Revis

27226670Paper Hearts by Beth Revis
Genre: 
Writing Advice, Non-fiction
Published by: Patchwork Press
Pages: 342
Format: e-book
Rating: Helpful! 

Bee and I both study Creative Writing at university, but the nature of our course means that we don’t get to look into writing genre fiction until our third year. I’m always up for listening to writing advice, especially if it comes from a published author like Beth Revis, who wrote the Across the Universe series, and The Body Electric. Getting to read this book gave some excellent specifics about what is need when writing a young adult book, and it’s definitely geared towards YA, as that’s what Beth writes herself. It was basically all I wanted to read about writing YA that was missing from my university course!

Continue reading “Review: Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice by Beth Revis”

Interview with Beth Revis, author of Paper Hearts Series!

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I  N  T  E  R  V  I  E  W:

To celebrate the release of Beth Revis’ latest book ‘Paper Hearts’, completely dedicated to inspiring aspiring writers, we got the chance to ask Beth some questions about the book! (And if that wasn’t exciting enough, there’s also a giveaway you can enter here!)

Maddie and Bee: You discuss a lot of controversial tips for writers in Paper
Hearts, which piece of classic writing advice are you most opposed to and
why?

Beth Revis: “Write every day.” That one piece of advice was very damaging to me,
personally, and it’s one of the most pervasive in literature. You hear it
over and over when you start out and it’s just wrong. I have never been
the type of person who can write every day. My writing schedule usually
means that for three or so days of the week, I can write between 2k and
10k words, averaging out to about 10-15k per week. But when I do those
really big bursts of writing, I almost always take one or two days off.
And that’s fine–the book gets done, often at the same rate as someone who
writes every day. It doesn’t matter how often you write, as long as you
write consistently and progress toward completing the novel.

“Write every day” is the kind of advice that has a good heart. There are a
lot of people out there who like the idea of writing, but don’t actually
write. But if you’re not one of those people, forget this advice. Write
the way you write to finish a novel. That’s all that matters.
Continue reading “Interview with Beth Revis, author of Paper Hearts Series!”

Leigh Bardugo’s Writing Advice

When we met Leigh Bardugo at her Magic and Mayhem Book Tour for ‘Six Of Crows’, she answered a lot of questions about writing, the inspiration and the motivation behind it. Leigh gave some absolutely amazing pieces of advice. So, today, we thought we’d share what the best selling author of ‘Shadow and Bone‘ had to say about writing:

1. “There’s No Expiration Date On Your Talent”
This was the best thing she said. This is the best thing anyone has said.
Leigh talked a lot about how, when it comes to writing, it’s easy to put deadlines on yourself, and what you should be able to achieve at a certain age. There’s always the comment of ‘She’s doing so well for her age.” But, we should just scribble out the last half of that sentence. You’re always bright, you’re always talented, and there’s no limit to the amount of things you can achieve. Leigh said she didn’t start writing ‘Shadow and Bone’ until she was 35, and look where she is now. You don’t need to have a three-book publishing deal at 18. You can write whenever, without deadlines. 

2. “You Have To Love Them If You’re Going To Write Them”
Pretty easy, but if you don’t absolutely love the characters you’ve created and the world they’re living in, you’re not going to take the time to write them. It normally takes quite a while to write a book, (50K in a month is beautiful, but redrafting can take years!) So, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your characters. Make sure you won’t want to strangle them by the end of your manuscript.

3. “There’s No One Way To Write”
You do you, that’s perfectly fine. Apparently, one of the most popular questions authors get is to do with their writing process, but there’s something different for everybody. Leigh talked about how Laini Taylor loves to have every, tiny detail planned out before she writes, whereas she herself likes to have a looser idea of what’s going on.

4. “Go With The Muse”
When you’re feeling inspired: write. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a bargaining magic scene, if you feel the desire to write a kiss or a battle or a calm conversation over ice-cream, do it because inspiration doesn’t hit you everyday.

5. “Don’t Crush The Inner Critic”
When that little voice inside your head tells you something isn’t quite right, or that your writing is terrible (which I assure you, it isn’t!) listen to the voice. Agree with it. Qualify that this is only a first draft, and nothing is going to be perfect first time round! You can do anything, but you don’t need an enemy inside your head before you’ve even started.

6. “Nobody Writes A Good First Draft”
Normally, when you get stuck in the middle of writing, it’s easy to turn to all the beautiful books on your shelf and compare what’s on your Word document to what glued between those covers. That’s not fair. At all. What we see on the pages of our favourite novels is probably nowhere near what was written in the first draft. Everyone struggles, and everyone has setbacks. Comparing yourself to published works is only going to make you lose the fight before you’ve even picked up a sword.

7. “Write Terrible”
Sometimes, the only way to get a draft finished is to just write, no looking back. Leigh stressed that no one else has to see your first draft, that it’s 100% for you, so don’t be ashamed of what you think is sloppy or rushed or badly written. All that matters if you’re telling yourself the story first, before you try and tell it to other people. But, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to see the first draft of ‘Shadow and Bone’?

8. “Finish Your Draft”
Every time I’ve heard this piece of advice, I’ve thought ‘that’s obvious!’, but somehow, I’m yet to do it. It’s not enough to say you want to write, you actually have to do it. Who knew?

And there you have it, tiny pearls of wisdom from Leigh Bardugo! Keep writing everyone, and good luck with your drafts!