Improve writing

Advice for new writers

Anyone can tell a story. If you can tell someone about that weird day at work or that odd person who sat next to you on the train, you can tell a story. Writing down that story is a different matter.  It’s hard finding the time, developing a routine and it’s hard keeping to that routine. But when you look at a screen or a page in a notebook that had been blank only an hour before, and all that blankness is now filled with the words of the story you have written, and when your notebook starts to fill up or that file on your computer is getting bigger and bigger, it feels great!

Whether you are new to writing or an expert procrastinator looking for some new tips, here are a few pieces of excellent advice that have been gathered through our writing group and from social media:

Write. Just write words. Write something every day, or as often as you can

No one is a Margaret Atwood or Charlotte Brontë the first time they put pen to paper. Writing is the same as any other craft, you get better with practice so the more you write the better you get.

William S Buroughs: To get any good you’ve gotta write a lot of [poop]. So write your [poop] and get it over with.

Don’t expect perfection in the first draft

A huge part of telling the story, or getting that poem just right is editing. The first draft is really about getting it on paper, about telling yourself the story. The second and third and so on are all about polishing it, filling plot holes and fleshing out characters. You will work out the ways that are best for you with experience, but inevitably, the first draft needs work.

Seek help from other writers

The lonely writer myth is just that, a myth. Most writers seek one another out and help each other. They help each other with works in progress, they boost each other and they write together. Finding a writing group or an online community is one of the most helpful things that you can do. They are colleagues. They can help you and you will learn from them. Sharing your work for criticism is a terrifying and amazing thing to do! It feels insanely good when a writer you like hears or reads your work and wants to take the time to help you make it better.

Our writing group is full of wonderful and generous writers, and we have a wide variety of events to help writers keep momentum and meet other writers. Our events can all be found on Meetup: Orton Writers Network

Read as much as you can in all genres

Read everything you can. All of the books. Especially in your medium. If you write poetry, read poetry. If you write short stories, read short stories. Read best-sellers and read lesser-known novels or collections. Read online journals on the train or the bus or in the queue at the supermarket. Read local and read international pieces of work.

Stick a post-it on your desk saying “No-one will read this”

Or, write as though your mother won’t read it. You are writing for yourself and it is often deeply personal. As you are writing it, it is yours, whether it’s a raunchy bodice ripper or an edgy thriller and if you worry about who will read it then it can restrict you. When you are writing it, dance as though no one is watching and see what you get down. You can worry about the rest later.


This one is tough. Some writers suggest sitting in a room without distractions. Turn off their phone and the internet and just have the paper or screen in front of them. But, this doesn’t work for everyone and let’s face it, life is a distraction. Here are a few things that a lot of the writers find useful:

  • Put music on. Create a playlist for the mood of what you are writing or something you know you can have on in the background and it won’t distract you. For example, film soundtracks are designed to be played in the background and satisfy your need for distraction without really taking you away from your work.
  • Give yourself time for distractions. Let your mind wander a bit. Think of something else for a while because then, sometimes, that tricky scene you’re working on slots into place when you aren’t looking directly at it.
  • Write-ins. Getting together with other writers and having some dedicated writing time.

Have fun with writing

Writing is fun! You get to create a whole, sometimes completely new world, whether it’s a fantasy world where people live in the sky or a fictional version of Manchester. Create characters that you enjoy writing; imagine how much fun it would have been to write a character like Uriah Heap? That’s not to say that it won’t sometimes be hard or infuriating or frustrating. But if that gets too much, then set aside what you’re writing for later and find a silly prompt word, or ludicrous writing exercise and have some fun with it.

Last but not least; don’t listen to any advice

This may seem like it rules out everything I’ve said so far, but actually, it’s all about finding your own way. Once you have habits and writing methods that work for you, ignore all of the “you should try..” and “this always works…” unless they sound like they will fit with you, but if they don’t work, that’s ok.

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Cheryl Bryne

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