Monday, 30 January 2017

Three Steps To Writing

Last year, I was asked to give some writing tips by the fantastic Little Star Writing.  You can read my original blog on their website, but I thought my readers might enjoy it too, so here it is!

I like to break writing down into three steps. The first step is HAVING AN IDEA. People often ask me how to get ideas. The truth is that we all have ideas, all the time. Just think of yourself as a reader rather than a writer – and then write the story you would most love to read yourself!

That's how I had the idea of writing Phoenix. I’ve always loved space stories. The stars have always filled me with a sense of wonder. I love the thought of other life; other worlds, out there in the universe… Yet there aren’t many books set in space for younger readers. So I had to sit down and write my own!

The second step is WRITING A DRAFT, in which you tell yourself the story you want to read. Do a bit of it every day, until you reach the end. But remember that no-one can write a great book in just one draft. I've never met a single writer who could do that; a book is too big and complicated. You need to build it over a number of drafts.

The way you do this is the third step: EDITING. Once you've written a draft, try to read it as if someone else had written it. Stop being the writer, and become the reader again. And then, as the reader, ask yourself all the questions you ask of every other story you read. What works? What doesn't? What should there be more of? And less of? Then go back to being the writer, and do everything you can to make it more like the story you want to read. Keep doing this, again and again, until it's the best version of the story you can possibly write.

To illustrate how much things can change in this process, I'm going to show you an early draft of Phoenix. First of all, for comparison, have a good look at the extract above. It's the opening of the final, published draft. Once you know it well, have a look at the opening of my early draft:

Can you see how much has changed? It's gone from first person to third person. From present tense to past. It's become a dream. The setting has completely changed. The only thing that's the same is a character gazing up at the stars. That's the heart of it; but everything around it is different!

That process took me 13 drafts. It was long and hard – but it was worth it, because Phoenix is the book I wanted to read; a book that didn't exist before I wrote it. And you will feel the same about the stories that you write. So I'd like to wish you all happy writing, and happy reading – because in the end, the key to being a writer is really just being a reader!


George said...

Thank you for sharing this - that's so helpful, and inspiring.

SF Said said...

Dear George,

Thank you so much for your kind comment! I'm glad my tips were helpful. And if you want them, you'll find more writing tips if you scroll down this page!

With best wishes,

Mr Wade said...

Dear SF Said,

Thank you for sharing this blog post with us here in Green Class at Parklee. We have been trying to improve our writing, and reading this we no doubt believe we will. We are reading Varjak Paw at the moment and are taking inspiration from your writing into ours.
We have learnt:
- To be a good writer you first need to be a good reader.
- It takes a long time to write a story and it is hard work.
- To get the best piece of writing we have to draft our work and try to improve on it each time.
- But we think the most important part for us, is the fact when we are writing that we need to stop being the writer and become the reader to see what works and what doesn’t.

Thank you for all of your help

Green Class

SF Said said...

Dear Green Class,

Thank you so much for reading Varjak Paw! I hope you are enjoying his adventures. And thank you for reading this blog, too – I think you have really understood what I'm trying to say.

Good luck with your reading & writing - and keep the Way alive!
SF Said

Unknown said...

Thanks for your advice I am nearly 10 I am going to start writing drafts

SF Said said...

You're welcome, I'm glad it's helpful!

Good luck with your writing - and if you have any questions, you can always ask them here!

With best wishes,