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Writing Advice

In this section, you will find a collection of blogs dedicated to writing advice. So, if your manuscript is starting to drive you crazy, or you’re not sure how to get started, read on for the push you need to create your masterpiece.

Why You Should Write That Story

The most important thing a writer has is their story. At first, I thought it might be having the latest, all singing, all dancing writing program, or a neat writing desk with piles of colour-coded notes and no coffee rings or two day old bowls of crusty cereal. I even thought it might be the skill of being able to use words like floccinaucinihilipilification in a sentence without breaking a sweat, or having a lovely email from a lovely agent that quite liked your sample chapters. But it isn’t. (Although these things are still quite glorious.) The most important thing you have as a writer, is your story. That story. You know, that thing that won’t leave you alone. That project that you know, deep down, beneath all those grisly, foggy layers of doubt and ‘should I?’’s and ‘can I?’’s, can only be written in the way it needs to be written, by you. It’s that story that scares you, and probably excites you in equal measures, and that story that sometimes feels far, far …

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The secrets to writing a prize-winning book

If you’ve ever entered a writing competition, you’ll know that it takes a certain kind of story to win. What that story is however, isn’t always clear. So how can you write a prize-winning book? And what is it that makes a book ‘outstanding’?

These are questions we think about a lot at CompletelyNovel, as our authors strive to create and publish the best books they can. So, to shed some light on the secrets of prize-winning books, we’ve taken a closer look at four of the biggest book competitions in the UK, and what their winning entries have in common.

Man Booker Prize longlist - ‘Do something exciting with language.’

The Man Booker Prize is thought of as being the biggest prize for books in the UK, although there’s plenty of controversy this year, as most of the longlisted authors seem to be American.

But what do these books really have in common?

"The range of different performances and forms of these novels is amazing. All of them do something exciting with the …

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Writer's Block: What Can Cause Those Kinks In The Hose

‘Writer’s block’ is a term that never quite seems to convey the severity of the frustration it brings. ‘Writer’s misery’ however... well, that sounds far more accurate, doesn’t it? What could be more miserable for a writer than struggling to write three words together that you’re convinced even a toddler could write with a crayon in its sticky fist? 

Last year, I was in a bit of a... fog – not quite there, deep in writer’s misery, but a fog, where finding word after word felt like rooting around, shoulder deep, in a tissue-stuffed fairground lucky dip, being grateful for absolutely anything I could get my hands on – and in my desperation, I turned to Google. After a few clicks, I found a rant by Ray Bradbury, and one line jumped out at me immediately: ‘You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.”’
Until that moment, I used to think that …

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Writing dialogue: the voices in my head

Nick Jones

In the very early stages of plotting my ghost story ‘King’s Cross’, I realised what an important part authentic dialogue would have to play. The novel features a diverse collection of characters: nuns, mini-cab drivers, firemen and a feisty Lolita-like teenager named Alice (who has some of the book’s best lines).

Would Alice say: ‘I don’t know.’ Or ‘Dunno.’? Almost certainly the latter. Would a mini-cab driver ask a fare (on being offered a £20 note): ‘Haven’t you got anything smaller?’ or ‘Ain’t yer got nothin’ smaller?’ Probably the latter. Drafting dialogue at one’s computer is all very well, but it can be time-consuming. And though most writers carry a notebook in order to scribble down their thoughts, trying to jot down a bon mot, when you’re driving the kids to school, can be dangerous! 

So I began to develop the technique of ‘rehearsing’ these exchanges in my head, usually when I was out and about doing something mundane like …

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Send It, Don’t Scrap It!

Anastasia Prempeh

As a writer my relationship with my work could often be described as ‘complicated’. The same poem can feel like the best thing I’ve ever written and in another moment seem like it just isn’t working. Then there’s the process of trying to edit and improve the piece to make it ‘great’, but becoming so involved in the words, the syntax and the line breaks can sometimes make it feel like I can’t look at it objectively anymore. What makes a great poem great anyway? Feedback and second/third/fourth opinions can be helpful but in the end - and I’m sure many other writers do the same - I go with my gut.

Unfortunately though, this is also where doubt can rear its ugly head. It's so easy to just ‘scrap it’ and put it away. But don’t let this happen. Send it. Submit it to a magazine, a review, an anthology. Enter it in a competition. As clichéd as it sounds, when I submitted ‘Those Words’ to the Great British Write Off competition I didn’t expect to win. …

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