Writing advice? From me? Well, this is all I’ve got.

I’ve had a few emails of late from people asking advice about the business of writing. I never blog about actual writing, cos I think it’s a ‘find your own way’ kind of trade, and more than that there are people out there better at it than me…ask them.

The only advice I would give new writers is more general and as follows:

1 – Don’t waste time on envy. You’re only in competition with yourself. It’s a long road and just use others’ successes to inspire you or make you raise your game. It’s a happier way to live. I’m a believer in sharing. I’ve got people in with my agent who’ve come away with better deals than me. Am I envious? No. Good on ’em. I always put people I know who are need of  a break in touch with my editors and agents. It might come to something, it might not, but I’m not in competition with them. I’m in competition with me, see? Plus, being nice feels good. Even for a wicked woman like me.

2 – There is no easy road. This is a tough business. So toughen up. Take the knocks and the criticisms. Listen. Watch. Learn.

3 – Be charming. Charm goes a long way. It won’t get you a deal, but it will get you remembered for when you’ve got something dealworthy.

4 – And finally – always remember that the trick is not in getting published (tough as that is), it’s in staying published. Embrace ‘the fear’. It keeps you working harder and smarter.

All of which is probably better than the advice I used to give the school kids I taught which mainly involved ‘Everyone has favourites. Get over it.’ and on Sports day, ‘Just remember. Second Place is First loser.’


About sarah

Writer of supernatural and crime fiction for Gollancz in the UK. I've written six horror novels and my first thriller, A Matter of Blood, wa View all posts by sarah

9 responses to “Writing advice? From me? Well, this is all I’ve got.

  • Me

    Reblogged this on Daisy Nook and commented:
    Plain, simple, straightforward. (just wish I knew how to be charming)

  • SF Tidbits for 1/30/12 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog

    […] Sarah Pinborough on Writing advice? From me? Well, this is all I’ve got. […]

  • Sam X.

    This is an interesting list of advice, different from the usual lists that I see on the Internet all the time. I especially think your first and fourth points are important–both competition and fear feed into the drive to continue writing. But not only that, they feed into the drive to develop, to explore and discover new characteristics within your writing. Only by doing that can you keep your work fresh and worthwhile.

    Envy will sap your energy but if you can access the more professional side of friendly competition, plus harnessing the fear of growing stale and irrelevant, you’ll always push yourself.

    At least you’ll know you did everything you could to be a good writer.

  • cjackplay.wordpress.com

    Thanks for the advice. I love the 2nd place quote. If more people had been told that when they were little, they would be trying harder now instead of waiting for someone to save them.

  • Adam Walker (@renduh)

    Thanks for the advice Sarah. I was wondering about your very first published story. Was it a short story? Did you just send off to lots of publications? Did you have an agent before getting published? And, if I can be so bold as to ask the question, did you have your fair share of rejections before getting published?

    Right, no more questions 🙂 And again, great blog and great advice.

    • sarah

      My first publication was a short story – my first 2 pubs actually. I think I found the adverts for subs on an on-line thing – maybe from the Horror writers’ association. I didn’t have an agent when I got my first deal, but I did by the time the book was published. I was pretty lucky – I sold my book fast to Leisure, but I did get a lot of agent rejections! And although Leisure books were a mass-market imprint, they didn’t pay well AT ALL, hence I was teaching while writing for a few years…

  • My God, It’s Raining» Edge Lit 2012

    […] and those two panels were prime examples of how to do it right. Sarah Pinborough wrote a blog post about advice for writers which includes the advice to “be charming”. It’s absolutely spot on, and […]

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