So you want to be a writer..?


It’s a common complaint, I understand – the desire to pour out your soul into a novel, to have an unexpected bestseller at your first attempt and then live in opulent luxury, occasionally tapping out another awesome publication. That’s an exaggeration, of course (unless you happen to be Richard Castle!). Even those who only idle at the idea understand that it is pretty hard graft to create a work of fiction of the standard likely to please the average reader – and even harder to get any of those readers to actually read it!

I’m in the process of preparing a talk to a local school, so I’ve been thinking about what to say to 13-year-olds on their aspirations to write. Which are the golden nuggets that I share in response to “What advice would you give to an inspiring writer?” (someone always asks).

If you want to be a writer, you need to write.

Write every day, write lots and write even when it is rubbish. Writing is a skill, like any other, and to develop a skill you need to practice. Spend more time practising the aspects of writing you enjoy the least – for me that is descriptive passages – since you cannot write a novel without all the component parts and, if you aren’t comfortable with them all, the book will be ‘lumpy’ and hard to read.
There will be days when the words flow like honey and then there will be days when they flow like bricks (or set cement on a really bad day!). Even so, you have to keep at it. I’ve always got a number of things on the go so that, if the words aren’t flowing, I can turn to something else instead.

Write what you would love to read!

Whoever said ‘write what you know about’ was an idiot! If all anyone wrote about was what they knew, we’d have no creativity. I say you should write the kind of book you enjoy reading. Why? Because then you will feel passionate about it and that passion will come through in your words. So if you love stories about the Wild West, then write a Western – don’t let anyone talk you out of it or suggest you’d be more likely to get published if you wrote science fiction instead (although Gene Roddenbury combined the two very successfully and the movie industry is STILL making a fortune out of that simple idea). You need to LOVE what you are writing, with every part of you, otherwise you won’t stick with it. Besides, during the editing process (see my previous blog on the subject) you have to read your work a lot of times, so you need to love it to do that

Read a lot – and read lots

Of course read the kinds of books you love – you are writing one after all – but also read other kinds of fiction. Read it with a critical eye: how is it written? how has the plot developed? how do characters interact? what makes you laugh? what touches you? The more you read, the more you will learn about the craft of being a writer.

Expect it to be tough

That may sound like an odd thing to suggest but, if you think the life of a writer will be plain sailing, the moment you hit an obstacle, you’ll give up. If you expect it to be tough, you won’t be surprised when something comes along that is discouraging – you’ll just shrug, say, I knew it was going to be tough and plough on regardless. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can offer – it was certainly the most important piece of advice anyone ever offered me. As a reuslt of this, I keep going – even when the words won’t come, even when I can’t think of a thing to say, even when I read a book that leaves me thinking ‘I’ll never be that good,’ and even when everything I do to promote my books doesn’t result in the smallest piece of interest. Because I knew it was going to be tought and it is what I want despite all the obstacles.

So, that’s my advice. What else should I include?

Cate Caruth is the author of the Bremmand Chronicles. To buy her books or learn more about them, go to

You can follow Cate on Twitter at

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