I'm often asked if I have any nuggets of wisdom for aspiring writers.
Being me; terrible at stringing sentences together verbally, and often angsty about my work, I tend to deflect, self-deprecatingly, and redirect the question back into the conversation.
But really that's a cop-out and probably more than a little bit rude. If my input is valued enough to be asked the question, it's only right to respond. So, in a rare moment of feeling that I might - just might - have a valid contribution that helps my fellow writers, here's my tuppence-worth on how to be a better writer:
1. Drop the aspiring. To badly paraphrase a wise little fictional fella, there is no try, there is only do. If you write, you are a writer. Even if you're unpublished, even if no-one except you reads it, when you regularly put pen to paper you are honing the craft of writing and are no longer aspiring.
2. Keep a journal. I'm a sucker for quirky, pretty stationery but a cheap reporters pad will do. Write in it as often as you can. Note down things you notice, things that happen throughout your day, describe your cup of coffee, prompts for plots, short stories. It can often be the most random thoughts that spark the most interesting stories.
3. Start a blog. We've already agreed that you're a writer. Now it's time to get an audience for your work. It can be incredibly nerve-wracking putting yourself out there, and it's something that the most successful authors never really get over. But if you want to become a successful writer, it's time to take the leap. Facebook is rumoured to be launching a publishing platform later this year and LinkedIn has a great publishing tool. If you'd rather have your own personalised blog, there are a number of platforms that will suit, or create your own bespoke website.
4. Give yourself permission to be terrible. I have some real clangers rattling about on the internet but, you know that's ok. Make mistakes. Break the rules. Many of my favourite authors and writing styles aren't technically correct and that's a good thing in my book.
5. Use writing prompts and daily challenges. Everything can be a prompt. A newspaper headline, a snippet of overheard conversation. You're only a Google search away from more writing challenges than you can ever imagine. Pinterest is great for creative prompts for the time poor - you haven't challenged yourself properly 'til you've tried to write a tragic love story in less than ten words. Get your creativity flowing and your mind working in different ways.
6. Shake it up. One of the easiest habits to fall into as a writer, is sticking to what you know. Why not? It's easy, you're an expert, you can write authoritatively. And that's great. But there's real freedom in writing about something you know nothing about, about doing your research and finding out new things. And that skill can also be incredibly bankable as you write professionally.
7. Feed your creativity in other ways. It goes without saying really but reading for fun as well as reading critically is fundamental to becoming a solid writer. Listen to music, play music, people watch, observe, draw. Do whatever you can to feed your creativity.
8. Get in the arena and fight. Get searching for on-line writing competitiona and enter as many as you can! Whilst you may not win, feedback is a wonderful gift. Which brings me to number 9...
9. Develop the hide of a rhino. Appreciation of your writing is completely subjective and some people can be brutal in their feedback. Some feedback will be wonderful, some will be amazingly helpful and constructive. And some will have you wanting to take to bed with a bottle of gin and a family tin of biscuits. Learn not to take it personally.
10. Just write! It's obvious really. But just start. However you do it. Put pen to paper, or tap those keys and tell your story.