It’s the end of the week, and those of you who are polishing up your submissions for our creative writing courses in London and online may be wanting some extra guidance before the applications close. Earlier today, author (and Curtis Brown Creative tutor) Matt Thorne gave us his advice, and now it’s the turn of our literary agents to offer their top writing tips.
Read a lot. Be fearless. Write what feels true and important and what you would want to read yourself.
Writing well is a prerequisite, but not enough to sell a book. The world is full of talented writers who have nothing interesting to say. Find a story which is interesting and relevant. Don’t be pretentious. Kill your darlings. Write a lot. Edit a lot. Don’t be afraid of failure.
Be original in subject rather than form.
I believe an aspiring writer who wants to be published has to behave like the old Avis ad. ‘We are no. 2. We try harder. ‘
Therefore you need to be more inspired, more ambitious, more focussed and work harder than your fellow aspirants. Easier to say than to do but the stakes are high and the rewards can be great.
Write about something you really care about, but remember that to succeed you are writing to be read by other people, not by yourself.
Aim for excellence – not just in your writing, but in everything from your research through to your letter to a prospective agent. Never, ever send something into the wider world without being certain it’s the best you can reasonably make it be.
Every writer receives rejections so don’t be disheartened or put off by them, rather view them as a rite of passage.
Don’t turn on the TV when you get home, even if Homeland is showing that night. The black box just sucks up creativity and spare moments. If you’re struggling with a novel sometimes writing in a different place can help. Being at the same desk, hour after hour, isn’t always conducive to great work. Find a library or coffee shop and take a notebook, a printout of your script and write ideas/read over what you’ve written. (If you can find a library near you then hurrah, they are an endangered species.)
Set a target of how many words you think you can realistically write per week and stick to it.
Begin in the middle, end with a new beginning and let nobody feel they are reading the middle of a book.
As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our selective 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.