It’s back-to-school season and the start of a new term here at Curtis Brown Creative. September is the perfect time to get back into the swing of writing, and to help you get your mojo back we’ve pulled together some of our top writing tips from past blogs, as well as some exclusive bits of Anna’s advice taken from our 6-week online novel-writing courses which kick-off next week.
Read books that inspire you, books that are in your genre, books that are newly published, books that your tutors and your student group are talking about, books you’d never normally pick up… If you find you’re reading something that’s causing you problems with your writing or giving you the anxiety of influence, set it aside but be sure to start something else. Read voraciously and read as a writer – ie, always try to figure out how the author works their conjuring tricks and what you can learn from them.
Taken from Anna’s blog ‘Before you start writing work out what kind of writer you are’
Go old-school. If the big white screen and the blinking cursor intimidate you, take yourself off-computer and try writing longhand in a notebook for a while.
Read more of our tips for starting to write a novel.
Use writing prompts. Here are 3 prompts you can use, but you’ll find loads online: “She used to hide behind the door.” “It was so high up, and I’m afraid of heights.” “He didn’t look anything like his picture.” Maybe you’ll find that writing to a prompt leads you in to a longer story.
There was an excellent prompt for this month’s #WriteCBC challenge, check it out!
Write what you feel you want and need to write. If you don’t read or particularly enjoy psychological thrillers, then don’t attempt to write one because you think it might be a commercially smart move. Equally don’t set about writing a piece of literary fiction, with pretensions to Booker winning greatness, just because you think that is what ‘serious’ writers do. Follow your instincts.
More on this here: What kind of book are you writing: Literary or commercial fiction?
Writing your novel is running that marathon – you will be living with this idea, working away at it, for a long time. Sometimes you’re going to hate it or just feel indifferent about it, but make sure you start by writing a story you care about. That’s much more important than writing something you think will be saleable.
Work out what kind of writer you are and get advice tailored to your writing style here.
Interview your character by asking them questions and answering them, at length, in their own (first person) voice. Hint – if you find that you are answering as yourself rather than as your character, then you probably haven’t created your character yet.
Character motivation is key. When you’re deciding on what your characters do in your story, you need to know why they’re doing it. And it needs to be a proper, actual reason. There have been times, lately, when I’ve asked a student to explain why a character has taken a particular unlikely action, and they’ve just looked at me blankly, and slightly nervously. I’ve been asked, “What do you mean?” I’ve been told, “I thought it would be clever”. Don’t contort your characters’ actions into crazy shapes to fit your idea of an exciting or innovative plot. Action must flow from character.
Always title your work. When it comes to pitching your novel to publishers, it’s much better to have the wrong title than to have no title at all. If it isn’t yet right, you can always change it later.
Take time to plan your rewrite. Planning is hard work, but plans are liberating and so helpful. Once you know what has to be done, you can relax and have fun with it.
Format your work properly. This may sound petty, but it comes back to the idea that first impressions count. When you’re reading lots of applications it makes a massive difference when the work looks clean, professional and readable.
This tip applies whether you’re submitting your work to an agent or preparing your application material for a Curtis Brown Creative selective entry course.
And our final bonus tip is a bit of a cheeky one! Enrol on one of our 6-week online novel-writing courses designed to help you at different stages of your writing journey:
Starting to Write Your Novel – starting 12th September (sign up by 10th September)
Write to the End of Your Novel – starting 13th September (sign up by 10th September)
Edit & Pitch Your Novel – starting 27th September (sign up by 24th September)