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For Writers

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Sue, On Writing

An extract from 'Telling Lies for a Living'

'...the art of pretence, fabrication and telling lies is part of my stock-in-trade. To begin with, I must strive to believe my own lies. It’s important that my characters become so convincing - so ‘real’ to me - they take on a life of their own. How else can I expect the reader to care about them? I need to ‘hear’ my characters speaking to me, each with their own distinctive voice. In my completed novel the reader should be able to tell which of them is ‘on stage’ from dialogue alone.

The same principles come into play when creating backgrounds and settings. Some writers use actual places they know or have visited, especially for contemporary novels. I do this to some extent, but as there’s often a strong fantasy element in my books I also make a lot of things up. Of course that is true of all novelists. A writer of thrillers doesn’t need to murder anyone or commit a crime. A writer of historical fiction can take as much or as little licence with the facts as they wish. Like me, they are not above twisting facts, features and places to add drama.... '

Sue's guest post 'Telling Lies or a Living' was first published by @Dough_nut81 on her Blog, Dash Fan Book Reviews, on 25th May 2018.  Click here to read the full feature.

Writers' Retreat UK


Sue was interviewed about how she writes her books by Jan Birley of Writers' Retreat UK.

Click the image to read the interview

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Sue's Advice for New Writers

People often ask me for tips about writing and how to get published. So here are some thoughts on the subject. I hope you find them useful and constructive.

First of all – writers must write. That sound obvious, but it’s very easy to do everything but sit down and write. We can talk about it, think about it, plan to write, make mountains of notes - but the craft of writing and the magic of it only happens in the physical act doing of it. Somehow the connection between the brain and the paper, or your pc/tablet – if you write directly onto a screen, kicks in when you knuckle down and engage in writing. You’ll write far more words than you ever need, but nothing is wasted. You’ll be learning the craft. Unless you’re a genius (and you may well be!) Learning to be the best writer you can be, takes time. How much depends on the individual.

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I’ve found it helpful to seek out other writers. It’s good to share your thoughts, inspirations, worries. Find a writers’ group. It’s important that the members of any group gel – you’ll need to build trust as all writers are vulnerable and somewhat lacking in self-belief in the beginning. The last thing you need early in your career is to be crushed by some high-handed comment or made to feel small by someone’s condescending attitude.  

Can’t find a group? Start your own. You might meet a kindred spirit at a local writer’s event. Or reach out on social media and connect virtually. You can exchange and comment on work by email. If it’s practical to do so, you may decide to meet up monthly and discuss your work-in-progress (WIP). It’s invaluable to get an opinion on your writing. Having the support of other writers will spur you on. You can also share experiences, contacts and build confidence enough to finish a piece of work.

Subscribe to a writing magazine. Actual or on-line. They have interviews with authors, offer advice and run competitions. Entering competitions is good in that it encourages you to finish a piece of work and submit it. Good practice. Read the Writers’ and Artists Yearbook – published every year it lists every publisher for every kind of writing, has features on writing, more competition news, and a whole lot more. It’s worth buying a copy now and then, but every public library will have a current copy you can look at.

I encourage you to learn the business of writing and to cultivate a professional attitude from the off. There’s a wealth of advice out there. Every aspect of writing is covered somewhere. Type ‘Writing’ into google and you’ll see what I mean. There are bloggers who specialise in free writing advice. Once you’re ready to submit work to an editor, you’ll find advice on how to go about it – from writing a covering letter to setting out your manuscript in a professional way.

There are no short cuts to becoming a writer. The best advice I was ever given was to read, read, read, and write regularly. (A page a day is a finished novel in a year) You’ll be absorbing all kinds of things as you read; characterisation, pace, building tension. That and much more will translate to your own writing. You’re likely to write the type of books, or stories, your enjoy reading. Read and then look more closely at your favourite authors, discover exactly how they made you care about their characters. How did they surprise you, scare you, move you? Try to do it as they have done at first and your own voice will emerge.

Just keep at it. Someone once said writing is ten per cent inspiration and ninety per cent application – I’d add with some talent thrown in. But you get the point? Writing is hard work – good writing that is. Don’t be satisfied too quickly. A 1st draft is just that. It’s a triumph to get it done, but then the work begins. Write, re-write, edit and revise your WIP. Be prepared to fail sometimes. That’s OK, it’s allowed. Just keep at it. If you’re cut out to be a writer, you won’t be able to stop writing anyway.  Good Luck. I wish you every success.

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