Advice for writers

Because I am a professionally published author and also run creative writing workshops, I’ve been asked various questions about the art and craft and business of writing. I’m planning to start a new section on my blog for answering these questions, linking them under a new “advice for writers” category. I’m also going to reference and link other sites that provide answers, help and support in greater depth than I can offer.

The answers I give will be my answers. They are not intended to be authorative but I hope you will find them useful. I’m hoping that readers will enter the discussion and perhaps other professional writers will be willing to offer their points of view. Much of my understanding of how to approach writing professionally has been gleaned from other authors and I’ll aim to cite specific points where relevant (eg the idea that ‘people who are in pain have the most impulse to change things’ comes from Orson Scott Card’s book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (1990)). If I miss a credit, please let me know.

My answers to specific questions occasionally change over time, as I gain a better understanding of how I work. When this occurs I’ll try to flag it up for further discussion.

Questions that have either been asked by students or suggested by friends as good topics so far are listed below. Please feel free to add your own suggested questions.

How do I get published?
How much money do writers make?
How often do you get paid, how do royalties and advances work?
Do I need to have another job?
How do you juggle writing and another job?
Who does the artwork?
Should I arrange my own illustrator?
How does editing work? What do editors do?
Do I need to have everything spelt and grammatically correct?
What does the marketing department do?
Who makes up the titles?
How do I get an agent? How much should I pay them?
When should I get an agent?
Is it worth “vanity publishing” or “self-publishing” my work?
What is the market like for [x] type of book?
How can I tell if my writing is good enough to be publishable?
How do I write a best seller?
What should I write about?
Should I “write what I know”?
Can I write about people I know?
Can I publish my fanfiction?
How long does a novel have to be?
Do books have to have a moral?
Should fiction be educational?
Have all the good ideas been taken?
What makes a book junior, teenage or adult fiction?
How does age-ranging work?
How do I get decent critiques of my work?
How can I get a professional to read my work? Do I have to pay them?
How should I start a story?
How should I end a story?
What about the middle bits?
How do you approach an empty page?
How do you make sure that Fear doesn’t get in the way?
How do you deal with self-doubt or “writers’ blocks?
Where do you get your ideas from?
If I dream about a story does that mean I should write about it?
How much should I write, how often should I write?

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