‘It’s never too late’ and other great writing tips

The So You Want To Be A Writer podcast has become a feature of the Australian publishing landscape since it first appeared more than eight years ago.

Since that day, the podcast has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times and featured hundreds of writers, who’ve shared the ins and outs, highs and lows and nitty gritty of their processes, books and lives.

Each week, listeners are treated to the kind of writing tips and advice that can only be garnered by people who’ve been there.

Some of the tips are tried-and-true and repeated over and over.

“Read a lot.”

“Write a lot.”

“Finish the book.” 

But there are also the other tips. The ones that might surprise new writers. 

Great writing tips from authors

1. It’s never too late
Kirsten Alexander is the author of Riptides. In episode 317, she confesses that she thought she was too old to become an author. But then she realised she was wrong. Kirsten says: “Don’t think about your age – about whether you're too young or too old. I've got two grown kids so I thought, for a while, that I was too old to [become an author]. I felt I should have done it when I was in my twenties – but my twenties didn't allow for that.

“But you're not too young and you're not too old. If you've got a story you want to tell, then please tell it. Because I'm a reader and I'd like to hear it.” 

2. Backtrack till you find the point of unravelling
Katherine Kovacic, author of The Shifting Landscape, says take the time to backtrack beyond where you find a problem in your manuscript. In episode 334, Katherine says: “Go backwards to find the problems. If there is a problem [in the scene I’m writing], it probably started a few pages back, or even a chapter back. So if I hit a snag, I go backwards to work out where things started to unravel.” 

3. Prepare for the emotional rollercoaster
Kate Simpson, author of Anzac Girl, says that you need strategies in place to deal with non-writing issues. In episode 324, Kate says: “Develop strategies to manage the emotional rollercoaster. If you are too confident in yourself, you're won’t get anywhere because you're just not going to be open to criticism, to develop. But it's very easy to let the fear and the rejection get in the way. So it’s important to surround yourself – through a critique group and in other ways – with writers who have been in the same situation. It allows you to vent and share the problems you might have.” 

4. More, more, more
Nick Gadd, author of Death of a Typographer, reckons you should double down on what you’re doing. In episode 314, Nick says: Make it more. It’s a piece of advice given to me by Antoni Jach, who's a Melbourne writer, and Melbourne writing teacher. He often says ‘make it more’. Whatever your book wants to be, make it more. So if it wants to be funny, make it more funny. If you want it to be weird, make it weirder.” 

5. The benefits of a book club
Kaneana May, author of The One, says that being part of a book club has great benefits. In episode 292, Kaneana says: “Get involved in a book club. Not only is it fun, but being a member of a book club has allowed me to understand what others enjoy and don't enjoy in different books.

“It also keeps me grounded and to realise that what I'm writing isn't for everyone. Not everyone is going to love it and that's okay. Even within my own book club, we all have very different opinions and tastes. It helps me to step back and to be objective about the reality of putting a book out into the world. My book might be for some people but it's not for others.” 

6. Treat writing like a job
Katherine Firkin, author of Sticks and Stones, emphasises that you need discipline and commitment with your writing. Sometimes, you just have to show up. In episode 341, Katherine says: “It doesn't have to be fun. [Well-meaning people will often say] that if you're not enjoying [writing], you shouldn't do it. I understand those people mean well, but sometimes you have to push through. I was going through my second and third draft hating myself, hating life, hating my writing, but I pushed through because I had made that commitment to myself to get it done.

“It doesn't always have to be fun, and it's not always going to be fun. Treat writing like a job. There are going to be days you’ll have to drag yourself to the desk and get it done.”

7. Let it go
Pip Harry, author of The Little Wave, says you need to be prepared to let go of your story at some point. In episode 301, Pip says: “Don't hold on to a story for too long. I know writers who tend to polish and polish and polish and they hold on to it. [My advice is to] just let it go. Have a couple of trusted critique partners you can send it to – someone who can tell you that it's not working in places, or if you need to rethink something, or if a character's flat. I always look for people who are not afraid to tell me what's wrong.”


Author bio
Author Allison Tait smilingAllison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is currently editing her latest middle-grade novel The First Summer of Callie McGee. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.

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