A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Type ‘writing advice’ into Google and you’ll get 540,000,000 hits – and counting.
‘30 Indispensable writing tips from famous authors’
‘Ten rules for writing fiction’
’10 ridiculously simple tips’
‘Writing tips from the masters’
etc etc etc.
How do we know what’s good advice and what’s bad advice, though? What works for one person might not work for another. Stephen King would have adverbs publicly flogged and crucified along the road to hell, but you might discover a brilliant adverb-riddled method of writing that speaks to people in a way they love. Some writers will tell you to plan, plan PLAN, but that might not be your bag, baby. Others will tell you to discuss your ideas, bounce them off other people – but that might leave you cold.
Advice can be misunderstood, too. I hear people say ‘Write what you know’, but writers are creative. They are imaginative. If you don’t know it, make it up. As long as it’s believable and written with authority and the story works, then that’s fine. And if we’re talking facts, well, we live in the age of Google. Everyone knows everything these days. Look it up or make it up.
So what’s the best and worst advice I’ve heard?
Well, I have a soft spot for Hemingway’s writing – The Old Man and The Sea is one of my all time favourite books ever – but ‘Write drunk, edit sober’ is not great advice. Not at all. Disregard.
The best? Well, ‘read a lot’ is good advice, and that’s what I always say to children in schools who ask for general advice. ‘Write’ is also great advice. You can’t be a writer unless you actually write something, and the only way to improve at something is by practising, right?
I also think that Jack London was onto something when he said, ‘You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.’
My advice is to listen to advice if it works for you; put it in your toolbox and save it for later. If it doesn’t work for you, ignore it.
Oh, and try not to be boring.