My top 10 tips for young writers


  1. Read a lot and read widely

Reading is the most important thing for a writer. You learn how to write well by reading good writing. Great writers are first great readers.


  1. Write what interests you, not what you think other people want to read

Write for yourself first, others second. If you don’t care about your subject, your reader won’t either (you need the reader to care or they won’t want to keep reading your story). Write the story you want to read.


  1. Make sure your characters have defined goals

Your characters have to want something so much that they seek to get that something. This makes your character active. Passive characters are boring and don’t make for good stories.


  1. Be mean

Your story has to have conflict or it won’t work. Give your characters the hardest problems you can think up, then make them even worse. Your characters need to face difficulties on the journey toward their goal.


  1. Get accountable

If you can, find a supportive writing buddy to set goals with. Spur each other on.

Closing dates for competitions are a great motivation to get your story finished. Enter as many as you can. The more practice you get at finishing your stories, the better you will write. And the bonus is that you just might win a prize.

P.S. You will get rejections – many of them – this is normal. There are many reasons why your work will get rejected but the important thing to remember is that rejections do not mean your writing is bad.


  1. Get help

You might need information about something you’re writing that you have no idea about. Be brave. Ask an expert.

You’ll need feedback on your stories from someone further up the writing ladder than you (sometimes, judges give competition entrants helpful feedback). You need feedback in order to improve your writing. Be brave. Ask someone you can trust who will be kind but honest.


  1. Give yourself permission to write a shockingly terrible first draft

Think of your favourite author. Got it? Right. Let me tell you a secret – that amazing author, whose work you love, writes terrible first drafts just like you. Awesome, right?

Get the words down, however they come out. Then you at least have something to work with and improve upon. If you let perfectionism stop you from getting a first draft done, all you’ll have is a blank page (or a very unfinished story at best).


  1. Don’t trash your stories

If you’re frustrated with a story that you can’t seem to get right or you’ve lost enthusiasm for, put it in a mental drawer and let it simmer in the back of your mind.

Your brain loves to solve creative problems for you when it’s given the opportunity. You just might get a brainwave. Then, when you open up your story again, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to wrangle it into better shape.

The important thing is that you go back to your story and try again. And again. And again. Good writing is rewriting. Every writer who produces great work has rewritten and edited their work until their eyes have bled (not literally, but you know what I mean).


  1. Get awesome at writing when it feels REALLY hard

Writing is a very difficult job. If you don’t write when it’s hard, you’ll never develop the stickability needed to finish your stories. Learn to face the page no matter how you feel. Don’t wait to feel inspired. Inspiration will come as you write.


  1. Don’t give up on yourself

Feeling disheartened is a normal emotion for a creative. Every one of us, at different points in our writing, feel like what we’ve written is absolute rubbish. And we sometimes feel like we are rubbish and not a real writer at all.

Get okay with this and don’t let it determine whether you will or won’t continue to write. Speak kindly to yourself, get up, brush off the disappointment and try again. Never give up and I promise you, you will succeed.


Jodie How
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4 thoughts on “My top 10 tips for young writers”

  1. Love this list, Jodie! I would also add, keep a journal or notebook. I really wish I’d made detailed notes in the ’80’s because without an eidetic memory, it all gets forgotten!

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