I interview writers every week here on the Booktopia Blog. My Ten Terrifying Questions have been answered by over 250 published authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Miles Franklin shortlisted Favel Parret and Rebecca James.
In each of these interviews I ask the following question:
Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Now, for the edification of aspiring writers everywhere, I will pull together answers to this question from three very different writers and post them here once week. Some will inspire, some will confound but all will be interesting and helpful in their own way…
“Advice for aspiring writers? That’s difficult, as all writers are individuals who write differing books. First and foremost, avoid giving your manuscripts to emotionally connected people to read. Anyone emotionally connected has an axe of their own to grind, and cannot be relied on to give honest opinions. Give manuscripts to detached outsiders to read. Don’t go thinking you’ve written the world’s best book, but don’t think you’ve written the worst one either. Don’t give up trying to find a publisher. Some huge bestsellers were refused by literally dozens of houses before finding a niche. Look at Harry Potter. And remember that there is always an element of luck about writing.”
“Look, you have to have courage or luck in this game. Some writers strike lucky right off (Tim Winton springs to mind – he won the Vogel and hasn’t looked back) but most writers won’t have Winton’s luck. What’s difficult is fighting the thought that if you DON’T have luck, then that means it must be because you aren’t any good. But in fact history is littered with writers who have been passed over for prizes, awards, best-sellerdom etc, dying in obscurity, only to have their work resurrected later (Richard Yates anyone?).
But — equally as important — a lot of writers really ARE bad and that’s the reason they don’t get anywhere!! So – and this is REALLY important but also really difficult – first learn to have a critical eye – read as much as you can and try to judge your own work against the work of others. What is being published? What is its quality? How much better or worse is it than your work? Can you edit? Can you even TELL the difference?
You need to be your own worst critic – take your work apart and look at its flaws, and then work on them. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Just keep writing and writing as hard as you can and learn to be your own best editor. There are no shortcuts, I’m afraid. Writers are people who write.
“Stop telling people about your idea and lock yourself in a room. Stay in the room until the work is done with only broadband and takeaway food for comfort. Writing is about inspiration but there is also a lot of work involved. Not as much work as digging a hole obviously but we like to make it sound tough.”