Celia Rees is an award-winning author of Young Adult fiction. She is a client of Curtis Brown literary agent Stephanie Thwaites. Her first historical novel Witch Child was translated into 28 languages. Witch Child and subsequent titles Sorceress and Pirates! won awards in the UK, USA, France and Italy. Her first adult novel Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook was recently published by HarperCollins.
I’ve been writing for a long time. I’ve had over twenty books published, written for five different publishers, worked with three different agents, written Children’s, Young Adult and I’m about to have my first Adult title published. Here are my rules. And the first rule is…
There are no rules.
It is always interesting to hear what other writers have to say about how they work and there’s nothing wrong with reading books about how to write, doing courses, listening to podcasts, dipping into a bit of coaching. You can always learn things. There are always tips and tricks to take on board. Anything that resonates with you as useful or valuable, then accept it by all means, but ultimately, there is no right way, or wrong way to go about writing, or being a writer. There is just YOUR way. You make up the rules that work for you.
Having said that, here are some of the things I’ve learnt along the way. Not rules, right? Because there are no rules, but…
Keep going, whatever the setbacks. Believe in what you are doing and don’t give up on it.
Have a dedicated writing space
Even if it is just a desk or a table. Make it your own. If you have wall space available, put up a notice board or pinboard and put up images, photos, past cards, post-its, anything to do with the book you are writing. Create a little place on your table or desk for objects that you might have collected because they have relevance, spark a memory, hold resonance or just because you like them. That way you are making your world, creating it around you in three dimensional space.
Writing takes time. The way you organize it doesn’t matter. Find the way that suits you, but make sure you have enough of it. Once you’ve found time, GUARD it – from family, partners, other household members. If you are serious, you have to set boundaries for other people and yourself. If you don’t take your writing seriously, you can’t expect others to do so, and if they don’t take it seriously, it impacts on your own feelings about it, so learn to say no!
Accept that writing isn’t just about getting words down on a page
Thinking time is just as valuable. Don’t be ruled by word counts – it’s the quality of the words that matter. It might take you all day to write 10 good words but they are worth more that 100 so-so ones. Those are the words that the reader will take from the page and remember.
Write with passion and belief in what you are doing
Readers will pick up on that. They will also pick up on the opposite, any book written by the rule book, anyone’s rule book, risks coming over as flat and formulaic.
If you have a bad day, don’t beat yourself up, go and do something else
In fact don’t beat yourself up at all. Ever. If you do, you’ll be thinking about that, not the writing. Put those thoughts to one side and focus on the writing instead.
Quieten that inner critic
The little voice in your head telling you: you’re not doing it right, that it’s not good enough. Tell that voice to shut up because all the time you are listening to that, you’re not writing, are you?
There is no right or wrong way – there’s just what you do.