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How to write...

booksHopefully you have been enjoying this creative writing series which is aimed to help you consider different elements of memory and how best to shape them into a suitable story to enter into the IGGY and Litro Writing Competiton. So far we have explored Facial Recognition, Hallucinations, False Memories, Drugs as a means to enhance memory, and Childhood TV Memories

In this episode, Author, Jenn Ashworth provides some hints and tips on how to create a piece of successful writing.  

There aren’t any rules for producing good writing – though some people will try and convince you that there are. Instead, there are some qualities that teachers and readers have discovered effective, engaging pieces of writing seem to have in common. There are techniques that writers, through experience, have learned can be helpful when it comes to generating ideas, editing, and fixing problems in your work. There are old, tired out clichés of form and subject matter that we can either attempt to freshen up, or avoid. With all that in mind consider the following tips as tools, not rules. As things that might help, that might be useful to try, that might inspire you to do something new. As invitations rather than commandments.

1. Start as near to the end as possible. Readers very rarely need to know as much about your characters’ backstory as you do.

2. Who changes? That person is probably your point of view character, or at least, the character who the reader is going to be most interested in. If no-one changes, are you sure you have a story? ‘Change’ can mean all kinds of things.

3. If what your character looks like doesn’t directly affect the change that takes place in the story, then it really doesn’t matter that much. Let your reader have some room to fill in these details for herself.

4. Read it aloud. LOADS of times. Record yourself and listen to it. Read it again. Aloud. Again. Again. Prose writers forget about sound and rhythm and they shouldn’t. Don’t inflict an ugly sounding sentence on your reader unless you mean to.

5. When writing dialogue remember two things – people never come out and say what they mean and people lie to each other all the time.

6. When editing your opening, consider your ending. Does the opening invite the reader to ask questions or be curious about the events and themes that the ending addresses?

7. Don’t write about what you know. Pick something that makes you curious and find out about it.

8. Write about what you know. The minutiae of every ordinary life, including yours, is worth examining.

9. Seek feedback on your work. Ask specific questions about what works and what doesn’t. If your reader misses the point, it might be that they haven’t read carefully enough, or the story isn’t giving them enough to go on. Try and work out which it is.

10. Read everything. Every day. Read genres you think you don’t like and writers you have never heard of. Read writers who are much much better than you are and try to work out why. Read writers who you don’t get, but who others admire and try to work out why. Read writers whose work makes you scared, angry, offended, frightened, disgusted, excited, exhilarated. Try to work out why. Take notes. Read poems. Re-read. 

Good Luck! 


Jenn Ashworth
Jenn Ashworth's first novel, 'A Kind of Intimacy', was published in 2009 and won a Betty Trask Award. On the publication of her second novel, 'Cold Light', she was featured on the BBC’s Culture Show as one of the UK’s twelve best new writers. Jenn has also published short fiction and won an award for her blog, 'Every Day I Lie a Little'.