Writing Tips


Are there shortcuts to winning a publishing contract with a big publisher? Yeah, sometimes. Being caught in a compromising position with the right brand of celebrity can occasionally do the trick. But if you want publication on merit because you’re a damn good writer, then take a look at the toolkits and techniques described in How to be a Fantastic Writer.

There are loads of great websites for writers, and loads of bad ones.  Some writers take pains to share useful information. Here are some great sites: Fantastic Books has a regularly updated list of resources for writers. Stuart Aken hunts down and shares useful stuff. Novelist and writing coach, Linda Acaster, also shares many useful tips and techniques. Many writers keep a ‘useful resources’ page on their website. It’s worth checking out the authors whose style you particularly like.

Have you read about the lives of the authors you like to read? Some will have written autobiographies, some will have had biographies written by others. Some have specifically written about their writing.

Look at books like James Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Novel, or Stephen King’s On Writing.  They don’t cover the basics of getting started, but they tell the story of how good writers work.
And try out Janet Frame and Alan Bennett for useful and fascinating insights.

Are there any?  Which set (of the hundreds on offer) are going to work for you?

I have just four rules of writing. We can all sit and stare at a blank page, so:
1.  Take responsibility: only you can make it happen. Sure, some people get lucky and some don’t, but you’ll get nowhere railing against fate because you don’t get the breaks. Be positive. It’s your life. It’s up to you to make it happen.
2.  Give yourself the best chance: Learn the craft. Learn structure, viewpoint,  characterisation, markets, everything. Don’t fight the fight with one hand tied behind your back.
3.  Be proactive, not reactive: If you’re serious about writing, make room for it. Make writing a part of your life. If you wait for time to become available, it won’t. Watch out for how you prioritise.
4.  Learn to put words on paper: Learn to sit and write without stopping if only for a couple of minutes. You’ll be surprised how it helps.  It might not be the way you will construct your finished work, but getting words on paper is hard so teach yourself how to do it.


The following seven "Top tips" were published as part of a creative writing competition for Pony Club members held during the pandemic lockdown in Spring 2020. The examples tend towards the 'horsey' for obvious reasons, but the advice is generally applicable in these cases:

or can be easily adapted in these cases:

Some is clearly targeted to a particular audience but still contains useful advice:

And one is a fun way to take a look at how these things look on the page, including an example from the late great James Herriot:

When Danuta Reah and I teach our writing workshops, I do the geeky stuff, the tips and tricks, the handy blueprint; she does the inspirational, the advanced linguistics, eloquence and fluency.  Our target audiences stretch from someone starting out – here’s how to approach your target magazine – to a best selling novelist whose work-in-progress sags in the middle – here’s a formula to tighten it up, here’s how to give your writing the colour and movement of dramatic cinema.  We’ve written all this down and it’s available in How to be a Fantastic Writer.