Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison's Top 10 Writing Tips

Posted by Jazz on Wednesday August 12th, 2015

Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison's debut novel Lobsters was shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2013. Fast-forward to two years later: Lobsters was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, Tom & Lucy appeared on a hilarious panel at YALC this year, and their new book Never Evers is out in January! They've shared their top 10 writing tips with us ... 

1. Be Brave! Neither of us thought we had a hope in hell of getting anywhere at all in the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. We had been told in fact that Lobsters was too ‘out there’ and that publishers would think it was a risky book to publish. If we hadn’t entered we would never had got published. Simple as that.

2. Your imagination’s the limit. Or not as the case is with us. Neither of us would have any idea where to start writing a fantasy world-building fandango. If you do, that’s great, but if you don’t – that’s okay too. Lobsters is about the kids Lucy taught and us when we were younger. Nothing that jazzy happens, except for real life. As long as the characters feel real, then that’s ok.

3. Speak out your dialogue. We literally say our dialogue out loud to each other as if we’re reading a script. If it is hard to say out loud, we cut it.

4. Ask an actual youth. If you have access to one that is. Lucy asks her form all the time what they think of her ideas. If they say it’s cringe, it’s almost certainly cringe.

5. But also don’t forget you were a youth too! Read your old diaries, listen to the songs you loved when you were the age of your main character, talk to your mates and relive memories. Nothing really changes about growing up, so your experiences are probably very similar to the ones young people are having today.

6. Find a friend. We get to actually write with each other when we are best mates so that’s pretty cool. If you can’t face actually writing a book with someone else, then join a writers group, SCBWI or just get together with one person who is trying to do something similar. We started out just wanting to do something creative together. It gives you something to aim for and keeps you motivated.

7. Don’t judge. This is so hard. But you are not the right person to decide whether what you’ve written is good or not. Send your work off and let someone else decide.

8. Don’t wait for the muse. We are still waiting. We might all be waiting a long time. No need to buy a frilly shite shirt or a garret. Unless you feel you absolutely must.

9. Try to find another word for ‘grinned’. And when you find it let us know. People are always grinning far too much in our books and we are constantly trying to rein them in. Or just recognise your own little foibles and try and stop yourself doing them.

10. Eat lots of cake.

Thinking of entering the competition? Visit out submissions page to find out how to enter! 

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