Top Ten Tips for Aspiring Writers – Jo Cotterill

Jo Cotterill

Jo Cotterill (Looking At the Stars, Electrigirl, Library of Lemons), gave up her career as a teacher, and become a full time writer.

So. Who better to offer some great advice to aspiring writers? I definitely asked the right person … witty & original you are going to enjoy reading these ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ tips as much as you are going to gain a lot of useful info from them. Thanks Jo!

Jo Cotterill’s Good Cop Bad Cop for Aspiring Writers

So you want to be a writer? Thinking of giving up your day job? Dreaming of public recognition, a nice fat advance and a national award? Here are my top tips for those of you who are dreaming of the writer’s life.

1. Don’t write the book. Honestly. There are too many writers out there already, and almost none of them make enough to live on. You hate your job? Find a way to make it nicer. You’d hate living on the breadline more.

2. If you’re reading this then point 1 hasn’t put you off. You REALLY want to write this book. So WRITE IT. Don’t sit around thinking, ‘But I don’t know how to begin,’ or ‘I really need a whole day without interruptions to get into it properly.’ START. Doesn’t matter how, just do it. Bit by bit, word by word. Keep going until it’s finished. Now you’re a writer. You finished a BOOK! Well done!

3. You think that’s it? You’ve finished a book – so what? Who cares? It’s probably rubbish. First novels usually are. Mine was. Read it through. Does it work? Does it make sense? Are the characters credible? Is the dialogue believable? Of course not. That’s what drafting is for. Oh – you thought you’d achieved something, now that you have a complete script? You haven’t even STARTED yet.

Top Ten Tips - Jo Cotterill4. So rewrite it. If you love it, you’ll do it. Some people even enjoy re-writing. They look at the mess on the screen and see it as a giant jigsaw puzzle just calling out to be taken apart and re-constructed. Personally, I loathe re-writing. It brings me pain. But I do it because I KNOW I can make it better than it is. And so can you. Put it aside for a couple of weeks. Read it again. Reach for highlighter pens and post-it notes (this is a great excuse to spend a lot of money on stationery). Start again, piece by piece, section by section.

5. Think it’s ready now? Do your research and send it to agents and any publishers who might be interested. Be polite. Don’t send the whole thing at once (did you see ‘do your research’?). Now, sit back and wait for the rejections to ping in. While you’re waiting, you could attempt to grow an extremely thick skin which you can put on whenever your email beeps. Don’t worry, it won’t work. Every rejection will pierce your soul like a hot stabby thing. Go to work and be grateful for your pay cheque.

6. OK, it hurts, But you’re a writer, aren’t you? You KNOW it can’t be easy. Anything creative requires hours of hard work and dedication. You wouldn’t expect to dance the Nutcracker if you’d only done ballet to the age of nine. You’d never think you could perform Mozart’s piano concerto if you only ever reached Grade 2, would you? So you KNOW that the more you write, the better you’ll get. Start something new. The first book might never see the light of a bookshop. That doesn’t mean it’s failed. It’s a necessary step on the route to publication. Keep writing.

7. Still want to give up your job? By now, you’re probably grateful you didn’t. Writing is HARD WORK. Even worse, your friend has a friend who’s just secured a fantastic publishing deal for her first novel, written on her iPhone during her daughter’s half- hour ballet lesson. You hate everyone, and really, what’s the point?

8. The point is, it’s still possible. People still get published. People still make money (OK, not many people and not a lot of money, but hey, it’s better than a slap in the face with a wet fish). It gives you HOPE! Get back to the desk!

9. Life’s complicated. Why make it even more complicated by trying to do something that can’t be quantified and is judged purely on subjective criteria?

10. Because that’s what you DO. That’s who you ARE. You’re a writer, and one day you’ll make it. Have faith and believe in yourself.

Discover Jo’s latest novel, A Storm of Strawberries. 

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