Sophie Kinsella’s top writing tips

I read an article about Sophie Kinsella, the best-selling author, and she listed her top ten tips to be a writer. I read them through, always looking for help, and some of them I thought were really interesting and useful, others I felt didn’t apply to me and the way I work, and then there were others…

  1. Always carry a notebook
  2. Think “what if”…
  3. Write the book that you want to read
  4. Don’t talk about what you’re writing
  5. Forget about genre to find your voice
  6. Just get to the end
  7. Walk and drink cocktails!
  8. Plan your books
  9. Get a great agent and consider a pseudonym
  10. Write the next you

So there is Sophie’s list – there was an explanatory paragraph beneath each of these headline points, but that’s the essence of it.

  1. So… carry a notebook: I was speaking to another writer yesterday and she said she always does carry one, and was lost without it, and thrown into a panic if she hadn’t got it by her when she saw or heard something interesting. I’ve tried carrying notebooks; either I forget I have one, or what I write is unintelligible or illegible, or just  not very interesting. I keep things in my head, play about with them, imagine things, which leads onto:
  2. think “what if”…  I agree a 100%! I’m always imagining ‘what if’… I’m always mentally rerunning things I’ve observed, noticed or overheard. Reading – yes, reading really expands your horizons, obviously, and it can also be a guide on how not to write. If you’re reading something boring, the reason it’s boring can be a guide to you, something to avoid!
  3. write the book that you want to read – I guess I hope I’d want to read what I’ve written if it wasn’t me who’d written it…  but my usual choice of reading is police procedurals, mostly set in Iceland, so I’m a bit stuck on writing something like that! However, I think what Sophie is really saying is that you should in the first instance write to please yourself, and be true to the way you have written it; don’t try and write to please anyone else – although obviously it is vital that you are aware of your audience and how they may perceive what you’ve written.
  4. And don’t talk about what you’re writing – why not talk about what you’re writing? I’m afraid, Sophie, I do it all the time – but I’m not a famous author, so maybe it’s different for you! To be fair, she does say in the article she is sensitive to criticism and can be easily discouraged by others’ comments. I guess I feel that if there is a negative comment about something I’m writing, I have to defend what it is, justify why I’m writing it, and maybe I’ll find the criticism valid and helpful in which case I can think again about what I’m doing, or it will strengthen my writing stance because I’ve had to think it through and mentally defend what I’ve written or am writing.
  5. Forget about genre to find your voice – another 100% agreement!!
  6. – ditto number 6!
  7. walk and drink a cocktail… I guess not at the same time! Not really for me, but I know what Sophie means. If you are stuck, then find something away from the page which will help you distance yourself from whatever you’re struggling with, and so you can gain some objectivity and come back to work with the problem either resolved or on the way to being. My way of doing that is to write something else – this blog or another story. Cocktail? No thanks, pub for me!
  8. plan your books – sorry, Sophie, I just can’t do that… I just can’t plan, I need to be spontaneous; having a plan worked out on paper turns writing into a chore for me. I guess I plan in my head, there is a film of my story running in my head all the time, and I play around with the action, the timings, the characters, the scenes… I do it in my head not on paper. For some people planning is essential, part of the process and enjoyable in itself.
  9. get a great agent? Really? I wish! And how does an ordinary person do that? I’m not going into my history of agents… So the other part of number 9, a pseudonym… being less successful than Sophie, using my own name hasn’t been a problem for me… although my married name is different and private!
  10. so the last one on Sophie’s list… write the next you. I actually have to say I don’t quite understand what she means here, but have a look at Sophie’s list and see what she says about each of her points:






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