NaNoWriMo Nov Day 5: Ally Sherrick

Posted by Jazz on Saturday November 5th, 2016

Day 5! Today Black Powder author Ally Sherrick is stopping by the blog to share her words of wisdom. 

What would be your five top tips to budding writers?

1. Revel in reading

There are so many amazing books out there already – Chicken House have published quite a few of them 😉 – and they are all waiting to teach you something about your own creativity and craft. Of course, if you want to write for children, it’s important to read lots of children’s books, but don’t forget to keep on reading the ones written for adults too. And push the boundaries. Try things you’re not sure are for you. If you like romances, why not try a spot of horror? And if dystopian YA is your bag, why not go against the grain and travel back in time with a historical adventure for younger readers instead? You never know when the creative spark might strike!

2. Perseverance

Ideas, inspiration, the ability to craft strong plots and compelling characters – these are some of the key ingredients involved in spinning a great story. But they are nothing without a liberal dose of perseverance. If you can’t sit down in front of your computer or notepad and lay the words down – even when you feel they won’t come, or when your own inner critic is telling you they’re pants – then that thrilling, captivating bestselling novel of yours is never going to get out of the starting blocks, let alone cross the finishing line.

3. Practice your craft

If you are just starting out, try writing in different voices (first person, third person etc.), styles and genres. It can often take a while to find your author’s voice, and sometimes the real genuine article will start to sing in the most unexpected places! The great thing about writing for children today is that there are so many amazing resources available to help writers learn and practice their craft  – from hundreds of self-help titles and writing courses, to writers’ blogs and websites to great organisations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) where you’ll find lots of supportive like-minded people who are always on hand to give you wise words, advice and huge cheers when you succeed (or a shoulder to cry on when times are tough). And of course, competitions like the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition are a great way to hone your writing skills too.

4. Learn how to take criticism (and grow a thick skin)

All writers have to be prepared to take a whole heap of criticism. Hopefully most of it will be constructive, although that might not always be the case. The important thing is to listen to it and weigh it up. If others are saying the same thing, then it is probably worth looking afresh at your work and seeing if it might, perhaps, need changing. If you are serious about getting published, you are going to have to be very open to honest, critical feedback about your work from agents and editors, so it is worth getting into the habit from the outset. And you’ll almost always find that your work is the better for it.

But above all ...

5. Have fun

I’ve put this last, but for me it’s the most important thing you can do. Writing isn’t easy – in fact it’s often downright difficult – but overall, in spite of the tough days when you’re sat staring at a blank screen or searching for that elusive word/sentence/paragraph, it’s got to be something that you enjoy and take pleasure from. Because if you do, that enjoyment will shine from the page and in turn give your story the best ever chance of spreading its wings and taking flight.

For those hoping to take part in NaNoWriMo or enter the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition, what would be your best tip for writing something every day?

Set yourself a realistic word count. Then stick to it. When you’ve done it, give yourself a big tick and a smiley face then wake up the next day and do the same again. And again ... And again ... Until you get to the end!

Enter the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition to be in with a chance of winning a £10,000 publishing contract! 

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