Dan Smith: writing tips

Posted by Jazz on Friday February 19th, 2016

To celebrate the publication of the thrilling edge-of-your-seat adventure Boy X, author Dan Smith shares his tips for aspiring writers! 

I was wondering what to write about for the Chicken House blog, and thought it might be good to offer some advice for aspiring authors. Well, I’ve just typed ‘advice for aspiring authors’ into Google and come up with almost half a million hits. And if I alter my search to ‘advice for writers’, the number grows to 115 million hits! That’s a lot of advice to compete with.

I want to join in, though. I want to offer some advice based on my experience as an author who has been lucky enough to work with some brilliant editors and publishers.

So, here goes.

Firstly, it’s vital that you write the kind of thing you would want to read, and that you write it with crazy abandon. Write about whatever you want, and NEVER be embarrassed about your ideas. Let your imagination run wild because worrying about what other people think is the surest way to kill your creativity stone dead.

The other piece of advice is particularly important to me at the moment, because I have just started working on a new book. This is to do with beginnings. You see, beginnings are difficult, and my first drafts often start too early. Beginning with backstory for your character is an easy trap to fall into, and is something that can be avoided without too much trouble. Backstory can wait, it can be dribbled into your story later, but a good beginning can only be in one place –the first pages. So why not try starting right in the middle of the action, raising a few key questions for which the reader will be desperate to have answers? A beginning that’s constructed that way can give the reader at hint at the setting, at the characters, and at the type of story they can expect. And it will hook them right in.

Don’t believe me? Okay, then I want you to pick out your five favourite books and see how they begin. I bet they start with some killer first pages that drag you into the story by the scruff of your neck. Still not convinced? In that case, now I want you to pick your five favourite films and watch the first five minutes of each. You’ll see that it doesn’t only work for books; all storytellers use this technique. You know why? Because it works!

Right then, I have a book to write, so I’d better go and see if I can take some of my own advice. Now, where was I? Oh yes, at the beginning … phew, it’s so hard …

Boy X is out now – find out more about the book here or follow Dan Smith on Twitter


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