Top tips for writing a book from authors

Susie Day, children's writer

Children's author Susie Day recently granted Sophie's wish to meet her and gave her lots of advice on how to become an author. She also got her author friends to share their top tips, here they are:

someone writing in a notebook

Get cutting and sticking

‘I take a lot of inspiration from pictures and images. I'll often cut things out of magazines, or print certain things out and I have a special notebook that I keep them in. They don't necessarily 'mean' anything, it's just the feel to them. I remember one of an old woman's hands, all gnarled and bulging veins, that struck me for some reason, and I kept that and eventually it snuck into a description in Dream of Lights.’ Kerry Drewery, author of A Brighter Fear, A Dream of Lights, and Cell 7

Begin with 'What if?'

‘I like to start with an intriguing "what if?" question (With A Witch in Winter that was "what if you cast a love spell on someone, and then couldn't take it off?") and then ask questions outwards from there. Why would you do that? How would it feel? What would you do next? How would he react? And so on. If you ask enough questions, you find you have a plot!’ Ruth Warburton, A Witch in Winter

Plot your storyline

I always plot my stories out first, so once I have an idea I do whatever research is needed, then I write a one page synopsis, then I flesh that out into a chapter by chapter outline. The writing after that is almost paint by numbers. By plotting you know your storyline so you can make sure that you include literary allusions and foreshadowing of later events, it makes it easier to stick to a word count and is motivational (e.g. I know when I'm halfway through). Bryony Pearce, Phoenix Rising

Just do it

Just write, even when you can tell that what you're writing isn't good enough and nothing like what you really want to say. The process of writing and getting it wrong is the thing that will teach you how to say what you want to say in the best way. But you'll never learn unless you actually do the scribbling. You have to get the words down. I promise, you can fix the rest later. You can fix anything in revision - except a blank page. The reader will never know, later on, that you carved the whole page from marble with a dull spoon. For them, the place where you lost confidence, cried, and nearly gave up, is just the space between a full stop and the beginning of the next line. So write, and then rewrite, and then rewrite again... but don't give up.’ Zoe Marriott, author of Shadows on the Moon, Barefoot on the Wind, and The Name of the Blade Trilogy

There's no wrong way to write

There's no "right" way to write. What works for one person won't necessarily work for you – and that's okay! In fact, it's more than okay. Don't be afraid to experiment, have fun and get it wrong; that's how you find out how *you* write (and it's also an excuse to buy lots of lovely notebooks!). Most importantly of all, don't let anyone tell you your process is wrong or doesn't work because it's different to theirs. Emma Pass, author of ACID and The Fearless

Have fun

I get an idea, then some characters, and for ages I let them grow in my head. Sometimes when I'm not very consciously trying to make up a story is when the best ideas come. I buy a new notebook for each story, for the planning and research. The most important thing is to enjoy it. Writing stories gives you an extra dimension to be alive in, which is the coolest thing ever. Good luck and have fun with your stories. Sheena Wilkinson, author of Taking Flight

Own a night time notebook

I carry my notebook everywhere. I steal faces and conversations that I see in buses and trains and walks. Basically I'm Magpie. Eve Ainsworth author of 7 Days and Crush

When I'm in the story-development stage, I keep a notepad by my bedside. All the best ideas come to me at 3am! Fiona Dunbar, author of Lulu Baker, Silk Sisters & Kitty Slade books