09 March 2016

Discovery Day: writing tips

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by Rufus Purdy Events, Writing Tips

Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh’s Discovery Day at Foyle’s Bookshop gave hundreds of aspiring authors the opportunity to sit down for a private six-minute pitch with one of our literary agents. It was an opportunity to receive some personalised feedback, to practice the pitch and to learn more about how the publishing industry works. Here, we’ve compiled a list of writing and editing tips from our authors so that you can still take something away from the day, even if you couldn’t make it in person.

‘An imagined landscape can feel very stale on the page, so a few sharp points, a few really vivid descriptions, can help to lift it and make it feel fresh.’
Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth Is Missing

‘You need to carve out time for yourself, even if that means giving something up: a Sunday morning lie-in, a Coronation Street habit, a night out with your mates. Write 500 words a day and you’ll have a first draft in six months.’
Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go

‘Write not because you dream of the writer’s lifestyle, with all the kudos, glamour and money that means (ha!). Write because you can’t do otherwise.’
Nicholas Searle, author of The Good Liar

‘The stuff you write that makes you go “Uh oh, this is a bit unusual/strange/where did that come from?” Go with that.’
Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat

‘Take your time and protect your work, and by that I mean don’t feel you’re in a race, and don’t show your work to anyone until you’re absolutely sure you’ve made it as good as you can.’
Renée Knight, author of Disclaimer

‘You just have to start, start and keep starting. Don’t care about the quality, just produce volume.’
Sydney Padua, author of The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

‘To beat procrastination, glue self to desk with the promise you can stop after twenty minutes. When the time is up, you won’t be able to.’
Antonia Honeywell, author of The Ship

‘I approach writing in the same way I approach drumming. My novel is based on a very tight, formal structure, but when I was writing it, I kept it loose and left as much room for improvisation as possible.’
James Hannah, author of The A–Z of You and Me

‘It is the words on the page that you’ll ultimately be measured by, so make sure each one earns its place.’
Julia Forster, author of What a Way To Go

‘Writing isn’t entirely reducible to technique, but the other bit isn’t magical pixie dust or having the correct genotype that marks you as a member of the creative aristocracy. You have to be literate, you have to read and you have to have an interest in the world and in people.’
Tim Clare, author of The Honours

‘Rejection letters are part of the deal. I’ve received a bagload, but I’m glad I kept going. Finding the right story and the right agent is critical. Plus you need to have a thick skin and a never-say-die attitude.’
David Hofmeyr, author of Stone Rider

‘Write as if the reader is a friend.’
Shirley Barrett, author of Rush Oh!

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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