Susie Steiner: My Top Five Writing Tips

Susie Steiner: My Top Five Writing Tips

1. Dare to be bad

The biggest enemy to creative drive is the masterpiece persecution. Drop any notion you’re writing the next Middlemarch and say yar-boo-sucks to perfection. First drafts are always woeful. But where there’s a draft, there’s hope. Omelettes, eggs etc.

2. Cut that scene/paragraph/character/description

Seeing as you’re not writing a masterpiece, why’re you being so precious about that scene describing the rain on a windowpane? Yes it’s okay-ish (frankly, it’s not all that) but it’s slowing the pace right down and kind of screwing with the action. Move it to a folder called ‘cut scenes’ which you will never look at again, and move on.

3. And then cut some more

Every time you read a scene, ask yourself if you could take away the first three paragraphs. Often there is a pointless preamble to the nub of the scene, when it’d be better for the reader to walk right in on it.

4. Read like a cannibal

When I read a writer I really admire, it’s like I’m feasting on the work. How did she do that? Oh my god he switched PoV mid-para. Why is the heat in that room so real that I’m sweating? I’m admiring, absorbing, envying and dissecting all at the same time.

5. Learn to take criticism without falling apart

This is not easy but one way to do it is to separate criticism of the work from criticism of the self. If there is a problem with the work (and there always is, at some level, for everyone), it is far better to be interested enough to try to tackle it – than run away screaming ‘Everyone hates me’.

Having said that, you definitely shouldn’t listen to everyone who has an opinion (they might be a complete wally or batsh*t crazy). Choose your critique-ers carefully.