21 Tips for Writers of All Forms and Genres

These 21 tips are as relevant now as they were when I first compiled them in 2010.

They are road map for all writers: journalists, novelists, songwriters, essayists, academics, film makers, poets and anyone who shares their creative vision and heart via words.

1. Arrive late and leave early: get straight to the heart of the narrative.

2. Defend your work and keep your creative dignity: learn to say no/no way/go f*ck yourself – because no one else will stand up for your work.  Remember you cannot write someone else’s vision.

3. Don’t show your work to family and friends: you will erroneously become attached to what they think is brilliant, which in fact is likely to be absolute crap.

4. Go out and live your life: do not allow yourself to become stuck in a hole of your own creativity – especially when you’re creatively blocked – being in the real world is the best antidote.

5. Make up the rules for what you want to produce: in a global market there are an infinite number of possible niches with people willing to pay for your work.

6. Build an audience online: utilise a website or a blog to connect with readers – capture them through a mailing list. Don’t be afraid to give away free stuff.

7. Back yourself: don’t ask others for permission to do what you want to do.

8. Know you can do it yourself: you do not need the backing of major publishing houses/production companies – the rules are changing. Look for those you know, who want to work with you, and your idea.

9. Persevere: your yell is someone else’s whisper and whispers are pervasive, it will get heard – work on several projects – this keeps you energised and working creatively even when one project isn’t firing.

10. Utilise a multi-media approach: there are audio books, podcasts, youtube as well as thinking further afield such as combining/selling photos and music with writing. (Jessica Bell’s String Bridge–novel and soundtrack–is an excellent example of this)

11. Embrace festivals: nothing is ever to small to be part of.

12. Look after yourself: writing will ruin your health – so take care – consider writing standing up (apparently Hemmingway did this) and making use of pen and paper rather than chaining yourself to a computer.

13. Get to know your process: work out when and where you work best and do it your own way – try to write every day, even if just for a few minutes and carry a note book with you so ideas don’t escape you.

14. Trust the intuition of your readers to know where something doesn’t work: but don’t trust their advice on how to change/fix it.

15. Don’t write to a presumed audience: there is no point in second guessing your niche market – just write!

16. Promote yourself in public: but allow space to doubt yourself in private.

17. Write simply and vividly: specifics paint the best pictures on the page.

18. Don’t hold back and don’t protect yourself: say things no one else has said before – turn off the inner critic/editor

19. Collaborate: work with new people and don’t be afraid to change circles of friends – there are always new opportunities out there.

20. Be professional: submit on time, to the required word length, to the brief agreed on – editors like writers who they can rely on.

21. Cultivate a community of writers: writing can be a lonely enterprise, but it doesn’t need to be – other writers understand where you are, what you’re thinking and feeling.

First published May 2010 at Pursuing Parallels.

*This list was curated from a session given at the 2010 Emerging Writers Festival, distilled from the 35 ‘best writing tips’ shared by the Festival’s ambassadors Guy Blackman, Natasha Campo, Jill Jones, Sean Riley and Julian Shaw. Fast forward 12 years, it is amazing how little the basics change!

Original image by Max Burger via UnSplash