Our Top Writing Tips - Joint Post

          As we have 29 writers ready to hand, we thought we'd ask them to pass on their most valuable writing tips...

Dennis Hamley - visit website

Authors Electric Dennis Hamley
Tip one:
An 80,000 word first draft means a 60,000 final draft. Draft, redraft ad re-redraft until there’s nothing left corpulent or flatulent in your prose: only lean sparseness in which every word matters.

Tip two:
A good way to approach that blessed state is to read your work aloud. Your written words will become alive and three-dimensional. You’ll home in on every tautology, repetition and indulgence (see below). Sometimes you’ll find, very embarrassingly, that what you were so proud of on paper is almost physically impossible to say.

Tip three:
If there’s something you’re really proud of, look at it especially carefully. It may deserve your pride - but equally it may be an indulgence, so don’t be afraid to lop it off. If it’s that good, you’ll find the right place for it one day. If it isn’t, you won’t.


Bill Kirton - visit website
Authors Electric Bill Kirton

          When people are faced with a writing task – a novel, a dissertation, a report – there’s often a feeling that it’s beyond them, too complicated, has to cover too much ground or venture into unfamiliar territories.
          The first thing to do then is stop thinking of it as a single thing, a mountain you have to climb. Whatever it is, it’s not just one forbidding task, it’s lots of little doable ones. Novels, plays, stories, job applications – they’re complete, integrated entities when they’re finished but they’re built with the bricks and mortar of words, sentences, paragraphs. So instead of being frozen with fear at the enormity of what’s expected of you, break it down into manageable elements. Set up a separate file for each one, close your mind to the destination and all the detours you may have to make and simply deal with the contents of that file.
          So rather than writing a 90,000 word novel, you’re writing a 1500 word chunk of prose, then another one, and so on. You’ll find that, once you get started, rather than frozen into immobility by the awesome nature of the goal, you’ll start enjoying the route towards it.

Debbie Bennet - visit website
Authors Electric Debbie Bennett

          Change the font size or type. When the words move around on the page, the typos you missed before will leap out at you as you can see the words that are actually there rather than the ones you thought you wrote.

          Read aloud – you’ll hear the lack of punctuation or the commas that are in the wrong place! And the bits that make you wince and think “did I really write that?” The bonus is that you get to hear the good bits too!

          Have faith in yourself. When you spend lots of time associating with other writers you forget that most people aren’t – and will be very impressed when they find out that you are. Most people don’t care whether you are traditionally published or self-published as they just want to read a good story.

          Don’t follow the herd. Write what you want how you want. Rules may be made to be broken, but you have to know what they are before you can smash them up.

So that's out top writing tips. Do you have any you'd like to share? 


Interesting and useful! And, Dennis, I tend to agree with you about pruning, or I thought I did. And it's certainly what I do. Until an odd thing happened. I realized that the three books I've most enjoyed recently (two trad published and one indie published) have been by most standards a bit over-written. Almost but not quite self indulgent. And then I started to think, maybe they aren't over-written at all. Maybe, just maybe, the vast majority of books these days are (dare I whisper this) over edited! I'm planning a blog post about this because I can see how when most people are starting out, they need to prune and polish much more than they do. Sometimes you want sushi. But sometimes you want a Knickerbocker Glory with all the trimmings!
Lydia Bennet said…
or as friend Chaz Brenchley the novelist said in response to a 'everyone's gotta be like Raymond Carver' tutor, 'less is more? no, less is just less.' fighting talk, Catherine, and great advice guys! though there is far too much padding in a lot of modern books in my view which is a whole different thing.
Lee said…
Lydia, I do like that: 'less is just less'. (I'll probably steal it.) All the guidelines only work for average prose: the really great stuff is great because it doesn't fit anyone's preconceptions.
Dennis Hamley said…
Catherine I agree. Who is to say that something is an indulgence except its writer? And sometimes even the writer can see it's not an indulgence after all. But my contention is that the more you prune the more likely you are to find the REAL good writing underneath. I agree with the 'over-editing' point. But that, as I've found to my cost. is often not the writer's fault - we know when we're in danger of wringing the blood out of our prose - but the over-zealous editor's.

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