A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Ask The Allsorts: What advice would you give a budding author or illustrator?

It’s time for another group  post! This month, the Allsorts are sharing their favourite pieces of author advice.


Zoe Marriott:

Do your research. No matter how special your book is, or how talented you are, agents and editors will not want to work with you if you do not approach them with respect and show them that you have researched their requirements. Always, always do your research.

Mo O’Hara

If you are new to writing or illustrating then the best thing you can do is meet lots of other writers and illustrators. Join SCBWI (which is friendly for both published and pre published folk) and go to seminars, talks, events, retreats, conferences, classes,socials and book launches. It will mean that you get to know editors and agents as real people so they don’t seem so unreachable when you encounter them when you’re submitting. Plus meeting other writers and illustrators at various stages of their journeys encourages you along yours.

Kate Ormand

Write at your own pace and do what’s best for you, always. Everyone works differently, so never think what you’re doing is wrong. Work hard, read hard, and enjoy yourself!

Bryony Pearce

Enter competitions like SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices – because you just never know!

Bethany Straker

Never follow fashions or what you assume is expected of you. Always create what makes you happiest and don’t look over anyone’s shoulder at what they’re doing.

Isabel Thomas

Editing is everything. Say only what has to be said, and make that as concise as possible.

Abi Burlingham

The best thing you can ever do to harness your creativity is to create space to observe, to ponder, with the intention of creating story. Make something big out of something little and open your mind and eyes to everything.

Sangu Mandanna

“Write for you. Not for trends, not because someone says this is selling fast right now, not because your best friend like vampires. Write the book you want to read.”

Imogen Howson

Read everything, find out what you love, and then write the book you want to read.

Rhian Ivory

Finish the book you are working on. Write new ideas down but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to drop the work in progress because the new idea is the best idea you’ve ever had. Finishing the book is a very important discipline to learn, the new idea will still be waiting for you when you’ve finished.

Kendra Leighton

I highly recommend online writing classes. There are literally dozens of cheap, month-long courses running all the time that cover every aspect of writing. They’re informative, fun, and a great way to meet other writers and get feedback on your writing. Join the Yahoo group AnnounceOnlineWritingClasses for notifications of new courses.

Kate Kelly

Trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you that something isn’t quite working – be it a line of dialogue or a major plot turn – then listen – you’re probably right!

Isabel Atherton

I’m coming at this from two sides here –  as an agent and as a writer of picture books. My agent advice would be to research the market well, know your genre, find the right agent for you, hone your proposal (so it’s top notch) and think commercial and platform. Publishers all want to see a demonstrable platform and a willingness to promote. From a writing perspective, hone your craft, polish and perfect your material.

Natasha Ngan

Write for yourself. I cannot stress this enough. Only by writing the books you love as a reader will you write books your readers will fall in love with.

 Ruth Warburton

Enjoy it! Which is not to say, don’t be professional about it, but it’s easy to get so wrapped up in worrying about the craft and the industry and the intricacies of subbing for publication, that you forget why you’re really doing it in the first place. Be serious about it, but make sure you take time to have fun and enjoy your own story. After all, if you don’t, how can you expect other people to?

Dan Smith

Read a lot and write a lot. Reading helps you to understand the ups and downs of story telling more than anyone can ever teach it to you, and if you want to be a writer, you have to write. It’s no good being in love with the idea of being a writer because, trust me, there really isn’t anything romantic or bohemian about it. Oh, and keep plodding on. Just. Keep. Going. It never comes easily.

Janet Edwards

Different authors write in different ways and in different places. It’s interesting to know what works for other people, but what you really need to find out is what works for you.

C.J. Flood

The one piece of advice I’d give a budding author would be to prepare for rejection, as there is an awful lot of it in publishing. Many new writers are so defensive about their work, that they can’t hear the helpful feedback that is within their latest rejection. Hearing that stuff, and learning from it, is how we improve.

Helen Douglas

Write a book that you would want to read yourself, or that your childhood/teenage self would have enjoyed reading.

Ian Beck

Always finish what you start, only then can you shape and improve it. You can’t improve half of something.

Roy Gill

Start by writing the story you want to read. Listen to the people who love the best of your work. Politely disregard those who want to file off the interesting edges. Write more. Get better.

And me?

Ignore ‘Write what you know.’ Write about whatever you like, and use what you know to give it your thumbprint.


What’s your favourite piece of writing advice? Tell us in the comments!


Emma Pass PhotoEmma Pass
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, will be published on 25th April 2013, followed by another stand-alone thriller for young adults in 2014. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and dog in the North East Midlands.

5 comments on “Ask The Allsorts: What advice would you give a budding author or illustrator?

  1. Jo Carroll
    July 29, 2013

    I loved a comment I heard on Radio4 – and can’t recall who said it, which is a shame, as this really isn’t original – he claimed there’s no such this as writers’ block, just writers who are afraid to write badly.

    There’s a discussion to be had on the existence or not of writers block, but permission to write badly – knowing I can make it better on a different day – was liberating for me.

  2. Abi Burlingham
    July 29, 2013

    I loved reading these – I especially liked Ian Beck’s. By seeing a story through to the end you learn about the curves of a story, you feel the exhileration of having completed something, and then you can start to really get the bit between your teeth.

  3. emmapass
    July 29, 2013

    Some great advice here! I think Dan’s is my favourite – ‘Just. Keep. Going. It never comes easily.’ – so true. When I was starting out, I used to dream of the day I’d sit down and start writing, and the words would just flow. Now I know better! 😛

  4. Non
    July 29, 2013

    I love C.J. Flood’s advice here – having followed all the other great advice on here, you may still have to accept that no everyone will love the book you’ve written the way you do.

  5. sabrinawrites1
    November 18, 2014

    Great advice!

Comments are closed.


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