Advice For New Writers
Advice For New Writers
Russell Celyn Jones (Published writer. Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the MA Programme at Birkbeck College (University of London).) gives expert video advice on: What advice do you have for writers just starting out?; What cautions do you have for wannabe writers?; Is it true that 'everyone has a novel in them'? and more...
What advice do you have for writers just starting out?
Write everyday, read all the time, keep your day job. There's not a lot of money to be made in fiction except at the very top end. That shouldn't be your motive. You really need to want to do it, and if your ideas nag at you long enough, it'll be irresistible after awhile to just sit down and write. Write them out in a form of fiction.
What cautions do you have for wannabe writers?
One warning I would say to anybody setting up to write is to try to manage their expectations of what they will achieve. You have to love the game. The expectation which should be avoided is "Will I be famous? Will I be a bestseller?" Really, you're trying to be ambitious for the book itself: "How can I write the best book I'm capable of?"
Is it true that 'everyone has a novel in them'?
It's not true that everyone has a novel in them. I think particularly writing fiction is not about self expression. It's about observation and it is a democratic thing to do; where you give many characters full lines and also fiction is an invention. It's not about your life.
Can you teach someone to be a good writer?
There are so many writing programs in the world. It suggests that writing can be taught, but only certain parts of writing can be taught. There's a lot of craft involved in writing fiction, and that can be imparted. What can't be taught, perhaps, is the talent of using language and voice.
How important is reading to a writer?
If you don't read, how can you expect other people to read you. Because that's where ideas come from. Fiction or novels aren't acts of nature. They're not just instinctive things to do. It's a learned craft, writing fiction. And the best way of learning a craft is to study other writers. All great writers have read other people very thoroughly and find ways of being inspired by other writers in their own work.
Do I need to do a course or join a writer's group before I can become a writer?
Most writers join writers groups now more than they did in the past. There is something to be said about having a community of like minds who will discuss with you your work. And of course, it gives you access to readers, for the first time, who will have critical opinions to make. Most people benefit from the workshop type of scenario so it is becoming much more preferable for writers to join some group. Although, my word of caution would be, don't stay in that for the rest of your life.
Will doing a course help me get a literary agent?
If you take an advanced course in writing fiction such as a Master's degree, the chances are an agent would be more willing to read what you've written. Because it's a filtering system. Most MA courses are discriminatory and it means that to get an MA in creative writing you'll have learnt a lot. And agents know that. Also agents recruit from courses like the one at Birkbeck and others.
Can I make a living from writing?
It's very difficult to make a living from writing. I think if that's your motive then you should think again. Some people do of course make a living, but the average income in the United Kingdom for writers is around 4 to 6 thousand pounds a year. So bear that in mind.