Saturday was our writers’ group’s annual workshop day as part of the Wellington Literary Festival, and this year we were fortunate enough to have bestselling novelist Kate Long come and talk to us. She gave us two great workshops: one on creating characters and another on using dialogue.
Kate also offered us her top tips, and this is what she had to say:
- Write regularly and often. Ideally, try to write at least two or three times a week. The more your exercise your brain, the more toned your writing muscle will be.
- Set yourself targets, but make them achievable. Kate explained that she sets herself a target of 3,000 words a week (600 a day, for five days a week). However, she understands that many people claim they don’t have enough time to write, but it’s all down to how much you want it. Her bestselling novel The Bad Mother’s Handbook was written whilst she was holding down a day job as a teacher and then as a mother with a young child.
- Give yourself some personal writing space where you don’t have to tidy up after anyone else, and they don’t clear up after you … then she reminisced about the days when the family only had one computer and she had to clear away the lego first in order to get at the keyboard!
- It’s okay to feel selfish about your writing. Writing is a solitary activity, but you’re entitled to your own personal time and hobbies. Her son made a sign for her room door - on one side it says It’s OK To Come in, whilst on the other side it says, No, Go Away, I’m Busy!
- Read widely - both within your target genre, and also outside of it. Not only is to important to keep up with trends, but’s it’s a great way to learn how other writers express and treat ideas.
- Keep notebooks. Ideas will disappear if you don’t write them down. (Incidentally, Kate writes in the dark! She jots down notes in bed, with the light off, and then types them up in the morning. She wonders whether not being able to see what she’s writing enables her to gets her thoughts down without feeling the need to edit and review her work.)
- Go on a course - residential, if possible. A residential course will take you away from life’s distractions - and it tells you that it’s okay to be a writer and spend your time, whilst away, to write.
- Meet authors wherever you can. If there’s an author visiting your local bookshop go and talk to them, even if it’s an author you don’t know, or who writes in a different genre to you. They may just pass on a vital nugget of information … and don’t forget to buy a copy of their book!
- Get feedback on your work where possible, but get the right feedback. Don’t ask family. Don’t ask a members of a writers’ group who specialise in writing romance to give you feedback on your horror story. Ask people whose opinion will be relevant.
- And finally, get your work out there!