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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.

Be a Better Writer

In her book, 10 Rules of Writing, Elmore Leonard advised would be authors to – ‘Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray’. Whilst Ernest Hemmingway famously wrote, ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is just sit at a typewriter and bleed.’

But surely there’s more to great writing than simply praying and hemorrhaging at your desk… I’ve analysed advice by famous authors in an attempt to discover how to become a better writer.  My favourite tips are listed below; let me know what you think of them.

1. “Find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!” – Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451

How to use it:

At first glance it seems Bradbury is advocating a sort of voodoo magic in the creative writing process whereby protagonists take care of the plot for you. However I think what he’s really saying here is that your characters should …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Identity

‘Just be yourself’ is about the worst advice anyone can give. It’s the “just” that does it. The perceived thing changes: if you’re self-conscious, you’re not the same as when you’re unobserved. You’re also different with every friend, pet and family member in your life. Every personality has facets, every life has eras and everybody has good and bad days. Still, these sides and eras are united in an essential self. When feeling confident, engaged and safe, that self can be accessed more fully. That’s the goal, on the page or off. It’s difficult to eliminate stress factors, self-doubt and self-consciousness. Being yourself is anything but a “just”.

Writing to please yourself is the best way to learn about your own identity as a writer. Your voice and ideas aren’t compromised; you’re free to experiment and explore. Each Green Ink Writers’ Gym warm-up begins with one rule: no editing or self-criticism. This licensed self-exploration makes the blank page …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Observation

‘Can you teach Creative Writing?’

There have been and will continue to be well-publicised arguments about whether something so individual can or should be taught. The answer, though, should depend on what we mean by “taught”. Creative ability can’t be learned by rote, or recited like a times table. However, good habits and stimulus from a good teacher will provide an introduction to key techniques that encourage the student to move forward towards their own discoveries. 

‘Can you learn Creative Writing?’

You can always become more fluent in your own voice. If you are a writer, at any stage in your career, you should never stop learning. The longer and more successful the career the more true that is, so if you’re a relative beginner you have no excuse not to be learning creative writing. 

Perception drives reality. So pay attention.

You can also teach yourself to think and live like a writer. The rest is passion and hard work and don’t kid yourself it’s always …

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10 Writing Touchstones: Levels

Just over a decade ago, I saw Alan Ayckbourn’s Improbable Fiction at the Theatre Royal, Bath. I was doing my creative writing MA and, of all the valuable things I gained in that year, the fundamental life lesson was that play. Act One is a writing group’s meeting. We hear about their genres, lives, personalities and how great their writing would have been – had any of them actually got around to doing any.

I’m not going to tell you what happens in Act Two of Improbable Fiction because I’d like you to come and see it at the Questors Theatre next month. It’s the last play I direct before I take a sabbatical, having just gone full-time on my creative writing PhD. The life decision is clear, but very hard. I love theatre, I love directing, I love the immediacy and the risk and the edge that film has the time to perfect yet we must conjure from the shadows every night. But it too starts with writing, and writing is what I love most. Love doesn’t mean much if it’s just …

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7 Habits of Highly Effective…Writers

In his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey presents what he sees as the key principles to achieving success in the workplace. I’m more of a Bridget Jones than a Stephen Covey when it comes to self-help manuals but I thought it might be fun to share the seven things I’ve learned along my writing journey and see if they resonate with anyone else.

1. Write Even When You Don’t Want To

There are days when the muse just doesn't sing- when she won’t even mutter under her breath. But you can’t give in to her silence. You still have to sit at your desk and fill the page. It isn't only about ‘being professional’ and meeting deadlines. It’s also about pushing through the mental block and making something happen. It’s about telling yourself you can do it and not giving up.

2. Make Friends with Other Writers

Writing is a lonely business and there are some things only other writers can understand. Your writer friends …

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