Q 5 “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?”

This feature is a series of questions and answers but with a difference, each month I’ll be publishing the answers from lots of authors to just one question. The questions are mainly book, writing or publishing related but they are meant to be fun!

This month the question is “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?”

Mari Hannah: Know what makes your character tick.

Chris WhitakerTake it back to breathing.

Elizabeth Haynes: Don’t stand in your own way.

Lilja Sigurðardóttir: Write what you love.

Phoebe Locke: It’s an oldie but goodie – Stephen King in On Writing: ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.’ I don’t see my reading time as a luxury, I see it as an absolute necessity for my own work and I guard it pretty fiercely. I think it’s important to read outside your own genre too; as widely as possible, really.

Hanna Jameson: ‘Put men to one side and focus on your career.’ I didn’t take this advice when it was given, and endured six years of sabotage, trauma, and utter misery. Then I finally took the advice, learned the lesson, and watched everything I’d never given myself the space to work towards fall into place. I was stunned by how transformative the choice to enforce and fiercely protect my aloneness was. Choosing to finally follow this advice changed my life, and probably saved it.

David Jackson: Don’t compare. There will always be others doing better. Look instead at how far you’ve come.

Nick Quantrill: I always go back to, “take your work seriously, but never yourself”. We all know a bighead when we see one…

Sarah Ward: I’m not sure that I’ve been given it but when I was starting out I read Zadie Smith’s Ten Rules of Writing and number three was: “Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation.’ You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle.’ All that matters is what you leave on the page.” This I do agree with (and all her other rules).

Steven Dunne: Realise that writing is work and, like all professions, there are times when you don’t enjoy it but you push through because it’s your job and satisfaction is always around the corner.

Barbara Nadel: Write what you love.

Fergus McNeill: Clear your search history regularly!

William Shaw: Never put your wife’s cashmere jumper into a hot wash.

Rachel Amphlett: Make sure you understand the contract before you sign it.

Derek Farrell: To Thine Own Self be True. Perfect advice for writing, loving, and life in general.

Cath Staincliffe: As soon as you’ve finished a piece of work, send it off and get started on the next one.

V M Giambanco: Finish it, for God’s sake, whatever you’re writing, finish it. You can’t fix it if you haven’t finished it.

Simon Booker: Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. Finish a shitty first draft, then make it good.

Susi Holliday: Just finish it.

Anna Mazzola: Focus on writing the best novel you can. (Courtesy of my agent). This sounds obvious, but once you’re in publishing land, it’s easy to become preoccupied with marketing and sales and things you can’t control. All you can really do is write the best book you possibly can.

Quentin Bates: ‘Brush your teeth twice a day’ is probably the most practical nugget of advice I’ve been given, but as far as writing is concerned it has to be ‘show, don’t tell.’

Mark Edwards: Forget all this literary nonsense and write something commercial!