Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So you want to be a writer… by Georgia Blain

If you’re here on this website, the odds are that you love reading books. And like many readers, you may have a secret (or perhaps not so secret) desire to be a writer.

I know that when I was young, I spent a lot of time reading, and I always wanted to be an author. I didn’t tell people this, probably because I didn’t think it would ever eventuate and I felt a bit ashamed about having such a seemingly foolish dream.

If I could talk to my younger self now, and give me some tips about how to become a writer, this is what I’d say:
Read, read, read, read, read…

Darkwater is Georgia's murder mystery for teenagers

This first tip is a very obvious one really, but everything I’ve learnt about writing has come from reading other people’s books. 

It’s also kept me inspired. You know that moment when you find a new author, or discover a new book and writing is just so wonderful again? It happens all through your life and it’s exhilarating every time.

 Form your own book club

Learning what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly, how to fix it, is a life-long lesson for all authors. You write on your own, and unless you have an editor (or even when you do) you have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how you can improve your work, how you can make that story a little better.

Often talking about other people’s work helps. And I don’t mean just saying things like: it was boring, or I loved it, or I didn’t like the characters – you need to go a little deeper. What were the strengths of the book, the weaknesses, was the plot successful, were the characters alive, what about the dialogue?

The more you look closely at other people’s work, the better you’ll become at looking at your own.

Turn off all social media

Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter – the whole lot. They’re a terrible distraction. Lock your phone in a cupboard and throw away the key (or give it to your parents to hide). When you finally do sit down to write, you’ll keep looking for distractions (trust me, I know). The fewer you have available, the better.

Turn off your inner critic

This one is even harder. Don’t write to please other people, don’t listen to that little voice inside you that tells you what you’re doing is pathetic. Just write.

Write every day

You don’t have to start by biting off something big. Just have small nibbles. Write a small scene, a character description, an intriguing opening that you might go back to, a diary entry about your day. Sometimes you can do short fun exercises that get your imagination going. One of my favourites it to try and write a few paragraphs that don’t use the letter ‘e’ at all. Or a paragraph where the first word begins with A, the second with B, the third with C and so on.


The difference between good writing and ordinary writing is at least four or five drafts. Sometimes I do about eight drafts of a book. When you rewrite, be brutally honest with yourself. Were you showing off a bit when you wrote that scene? Is it really as good as you thought it was? And be ruthless on the adjectives and adverbs – we often use far more than we need.

Find someone you trust to show your work to

This one can be tricky. Odds on your mum, your dad and your best friend are going to be nice to you no matter what. If you have a friend who also loves reading, you might want to give each other your work and try and talk about it in a constructive way.

Do short courses

A lot of writers run classes. They can be fun and you can learn a lot.

And last – Persevere!

Writing involves a lot of boring moments, times when you get fed up with your own work, you lose interest in your story, you think there’s no point…

All writers, no matter how young or old they are, lose faith in themselves and their work. Try and push through. There’s a lot of unfinished novels sitting in a lot of drawers. The finished ones at least have a chance.

Good luck!


About the author

Georgia Blain has written novels, short stories and a murder mystery for teenagers called Darkwater.

When she was a teenager her favourite books were Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger and A Separate Peace by John Knowles. 

She's currently reading Hilary Mantel's two books about Anne Boleyn and loving them.


  1. "Be ruthless on the adjectives and adverbs" great advice!
    PS loved Darkwater

  2. Love it! Although turning off the inner critic and shutting down the internet, well, I have real trouble with those ones.

  3. Thanks Georgia. I notice you don't mention the "d" word - discipline. But perhaps perservance is a more positive way of looking at it. Great advice.

    I really like the exercises you suggest. I bet you'd be hard to play scrabble against!