Top Tips

Top Tips from Writers

Some wise words from Jacqueline Wilson:

"I think it’s very important to have fully rounded believable characters even if they’re a Little Green Man from Outer Space or a fire-breathing dragon or a fairy who lives underneath a toadstool. Give them a true personality, and add an original twist to your story. Perhaps the Little Green Man only eats green food and loves Brussel Sprout Stew and Slime Smoothies. Maybe the fire-breathing dragon is susceptible to colds and sets fire to buildings every time he sneezes. Could the fairy detest her damp woodland dwelling and long passionately for a warm dry delightful little house with every modern convenience?

That’s the way to set up your story. Have a main character with some kind of problem or difficulty or desire and then find a way of making their dreams come true. Well, that’s if you’re trying to write a story with a happy ending. You can always write an unhappily-ever-after story if you want to!

I wrote all different sorts of stories when I was young. I loved writing at school and I liked writing my own stories at home. I once went in for a nationwide creative writing competition [...] one of my friends thought this a good idea and dashed off a story for the competition too.

Neither of us won - but she was sent a Highly Commended certificate. I didn't get anything! So don't be too disappointed if you don't win."


Michael Rosen:

"Most stories have at their heart either a dilemma, a problem, a challenge or a quest. They start from the idea that someone has something to do. A great place to start is with the opening of the stories you love. Pick a book and look at the first few pages. Think about how you could write something like that."

Sarah Harris:

"If you love books, read a lot and keep writing, but you’re not sure you’re any good, then you’re doing everything right! Doubting yourself helps you strive to do better and keeps you open to learning and developing. Even the very best writers will have moments when they wonder if their writing is any good and when it doesn’t come easily. Keep going. The moments when it comes together and starts to flow are totally worth it!"

Rebecca Smith:

"Read. If you want to be a writer, be a reader. Jane Austen gave this advice too."

Chris Priestly

Cambridge-based author and illustrator Chris Priestly was the guest of honour at our fifth annual Creative Writing Competition. He wrote the Tales of Terror series and many other novels in the long-loved tradition of horror stories inspired by authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley. Priestly’s top tip for the audience of young writers was to “read everything you write out loud to yourself.”

Check out Joe Craig's article for more tips on creative writing. Joe is the author of the Jimmy Coates spy series, and was the judge of the National Short Story Week young writer competition in 2015.