Advice to a New Writer by Allison Symes

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Picture this. You meet a new writer who likes your work (wonderful), has bought your book (even better), and they’re after writing advice from you (flattered to be asked). What do you say? My thoughts are:-

Be well stocked up on tea, coffee, or other non-alcoholic beverages. Writing is hard work (and alcohol doesn’t aid concentration). You need something to keep you going. Biscuits may prove to be your Slimming World consultant’s friend! Having to get up every so often means you get screen breaks! It’s an ill wind and all that. Do keep hydrated. Dehydration does nothing for creativity. 

Despite writing to screen, it pays to have pen and paper handy. I often have ideas for stories while working on blogs. I jot these down and examine them later. Sometimes they’re excellent and I use them. Sometimes they’re not as good as I thought and I discard them. There seems to be an unwritten law stating the busier you are with something, inspiration will strike you on something else! Best to just work with this.

Accept your printer will run out of paper or toner during a print run. Take comfort knowing this happens to everyone. Your printer is not out to get you - honest.

Staring into space is an occupational hazard for writers. We know we are working out ideas. Others around us will see us as staring into space meaning we are clearly doing nothing and can be interrupted. This is where you discover whether you need to develop the virtue of patience or not. (Am working on it before you ask).  

Deadlines come along faster than you think.

You will spot typos and/or grammatical errors just before you’re due to send something out. This is why I bring any deadline forward to a date of my choosing so I can sort these out and submit my pieces in good time. Take that, Murphy’s Law for Writers!

You need an editor. We all do.

Join a professional body such as the Society of Authors and/or the Alliance of Independent Authors. You need to know where to go for advice. Every industry has its sharks, including publishing. See the subscriptions as an investment in your writing. 

Meet writers. You’ll make friends. You’ll share tips. It is fun. We spend time at our desks alone so getting together, in person and/or online, is a magnificent morale boost. We all need that too.

Read. Read contemporary, classic, books, short stories and flash fiction (no prizes for guessing why I put that in), read magazines. Inspiration comes from things we read so you want a decent “pool” for your imagination to fish in. 

What you then do with those ideas is what we will want to discover. You will bring your own take to a topic. All of the love stories have not been written, just to name one example. What about the ones you are yet to write?

Any thoughts on what you would share with a new writer?

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