Tag Archives: writing

Good advice I can’t seem to follow

I love lists of helpful advice, from ‘Five warning signs that you’re not as healthy as you should be’ to ‘Ten ways to save ten minutes’. Tips for writers are just as enthusiastically devoured. It’s just a shame I don’t put them into practice. Here’s a list of my own:

8 pieces of good advice I can’t seem to follow.

1a Plot thoroughly

There are whole books about different methods of plotting, with wheels and fishbones and storyboards and string theory. They’re clearly all utterly brilliant. But I will never manage more than a scribble on the back of an electricity bill (must remember to switch to online). For me, rigorous plotting falls into the same category as knowing that if I filed all my receipts I could make a sensible attempt at my tax return.

Conclusion: Knowing and doing are two entirely different verbs.

1b Plot mindfully

Tony Bradman’s three-point guide seems more achievable.

  • If I have a strong character and a clear idea of his/her goal it should be straightforward.
  • I must resist the urge to give away too much.
  • I must study plots on telly.

Conclusion: The third point is definitely doable.

2 Writing a minimum number of words each day

I tried this for ten days and duly typed the required amount every day (and no more). Excellent. The feeling of achievement was very pleasant. Unfortunately the words were very mediocre.

Conclusion: Quantity had replaced quality.

3 Morning pages

We had to do this for one of the modules on the Creative Writing diploma I took at the University of Bristol. I treated it like an onerous task. I don’t want to write whatever comes to mind. I want to write the next bit of whatever I’m working on.

Conclusion: I sometimes have an attitude problem.

4 Set times of day

Most people who work have a set time to start and finish and a gap in between, as I understand it. If (a large word with two letters) I was in charge, this is something I would consider. The set times would be eight o’clock in the morning, with a huge cup of tea, until eleven, with a gap for a second cup and also porridge.

Unfortunately for my writing, but fortunately for my joie de vivre, I the other people and animals I live with interfere with the idea.

Conclusion: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

5 Stripping out adjectives

Evidently too many adjectives are the sign of a novice writer. Pare them! Bare them! Oh dear, I like adjectives. The page I’m writing includes: small, huge, nicer, big, brown, caramel (in a non-noun sense), soft, great, big (again), weird. I particularly like uber (without the umlauts). I have never used the word mellifluous.

Conclusion: My adjectives, on inspection, are very Key Stage 1.

6 Show not tell

Here we go – the mantra. I get it, really I do. But every so often I fancy a bit of telling.

Conclusion: I don’t care.

7 Throw away the sentence you’re most proud of


Conclusion: The advice of a saboteur.

8 Never think about the story when you’re not working

. . . if you think about it consciously and worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” Ernest Hemingway

Conclusion: I have a very tired brain. Too tired to address the issue of not thinking about the thing I shouldn’t be thinking of.

Please, all list-makers, keep them coming. Advice for school visits, edgy presents for edgy people, writer’s block, stress-free cooking for guests, all welcome, because in between the gems I rail against are those that I adopt with gusto, wondering how I ever functioned without that wise word in my ready-to-listen ear.

A review of my school visit – Tracy Alexander Visits Hans Price Academy

During the literacy celebrations in the lead up to World Book Day Tracy Alexander, author of HACKED, visited Hans Price Academy and talked to the whole of year seven about literature, creative writing and being an author as well as holding a question and answer session and reading an extract from her brilliant book.

The students were gripped from start to finish and bursting with questions for Tracy about everything from writing habits and getting a book published to computer hacking and just exactly how a professional author would know about “aimbots” in computer games?

It was amazing to see an author at school and Tracy Alexander was really interesting and really funny. I already like to write but it inspired me to think about writing a book! Amelia

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 It was amazing and I liked talking to her about what inspired her to write a book. I asked who inspired her and she said that she gets inspiration from her children. After school that day I started writing my own book. Becca


I found Tracy Alexander’s visit very interesting, especially talking about military drones and hacking. I asked whether there was going to be a sequel to HACKED and there is and I’m excited about it. I suggested another book and Tracy Alexander said it sounded like a great idea and maybe I should write it myself. We learnt what makes up a good story and found out what happens in HACKED without spoiling the ending so we can read it and find out ourselves! Alistair

 I enjoyed finding out how authors get their inspiration and learnt that it is good to plan out a story, not just rush into writing it. I’d love more authors to visit the school! Ethanial

I knew from the second Tracy Alexander started talking that it was going to be really exciting! We learnt so much and Tracy Alexander was really lovely. I bought HACKED and had it signed and I can’t wait to read it and then write a review which I can send to Tracy Alexander for her website. Lottie