A Bestseller’s tips for aspiring writers.

Many of us dream of being writers (preferably famous ones) from an early age, and may even draft an opening chapter or two. Few of us will actually finish a novel in our teens or early twenties. Even fewer will get anything published at that age – even if our Grannies think what we’ve done is absolutely brilliant.

Some of us will nurse this childish dream for decades. Then, as the distractions of work and a growing family fall away, we pick up a pen and, with an enthusiasm soon replaced by grim determination, many set-backs, rejection letters and, finally, with a lot of luck, we’ll actually complete a book that actually gets published,

The older aspiring writer can draw inspiration from advice given by Joanna Trollope who once said “you can be too young to write – because you haven’t lived enough, but never too old.” Think of Ruth Rendell writing bestsellers in her eighties, PD James doing the same into her nineties, and Diane Athill, who didn’t start getting her own work published till her nineties and carried on into her eleventh decade.

Trollope believes that people write better from the age of thirty five, simply because they have more experience of the ups and downs of life and love by then. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get into training meanwhile. Most important, she says, is honing your powers of observation – the hallmark of all successful novelists. Also, remembering to keep a notebook with you so you can jot things down as they happen, or as they occur to you: ideas, observations, snatches of dialogue, interesting place names, intriguing names for businesses or shops, names people give their children or pets …

As this famous bestseller says, “No amount of noticing of other people is ever, ever, wasted for a writer.”

Well, it works for her!

(This is a slightly adapted version of a post that first appeared in August 2018)

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