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So you want to be a writer? Tips from the expert professors of writing

Clearing out my office I found an old cutting I had kept from Saturday Guardian 15 March 2014 called So you want to be a writer?

  • Jeanette Winterson says that she doesn’t ‘give a shit what’s in your head.’ By which she means if it isn’t on the manuscript, it doesn’t exist. She says you can write about anything you like but there must be a connection between you and the material you are writing about.
  • Naomi Alderman, prof of creative writing at Bath Spa university suggests that you should write 800 words every single day. She says 500 isn’t enough and 1000 is too many.
  • Kathryn Hughes, from UEA, says that it’s all about structure – especially if you’re writing non-fiction. Anybody can just start putting words on the page but structure is more challenging. You need to have a plan. She suggests drawing a list of ‘landing points’ or points where reader can stop, take a breath. You have to take them from one landing place to another. But don’t be a drill sergeant – the trick of good non-fiction is to make your reader feel like they have figured it all out for themselves. Cut out any words you wouldn’t use in your everyday life. Be specific. Expect to feel despair at some point while you are working on a project.
  • Curtis Sittenfield, from Victoria University in New Zealand, recommends creating a roadmap for your project so you don’t write yourself into a corner.


April 25, 2014