Hannah Kent’s debut novel Burial Rites has been translated into twenty languages. It won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award and was shortlisted for Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
In May 2014, Hannah was a guest of the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne and appeared as part of a panel called ‘The 5 x 5 Rules of Writing’, where she and four other EWF ambassadors (Benjamin Law, Krissy Kneen, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Felix Nobis) shared the writing advice they wish we had known when they started out. We are delighted that Hannah has allowed us to reproduce this advice here.
Hannah introduced these rules by saying “These are five things I continually need to be reminded of, and they never fail to help me remember how and why I write.”
Photograph by Nicholas Purcell
Rule 1. Read
This is perhaps the simplest, most worthwhile piece of advice I can give any of you today, and this is why it’s the first of my five.
To be a good writer you must, first and foremost, be a good reader. How else will you learn what to do? Read as much as possible, as often as possible, and if you read something you like, or something that makes you laugh, or something that moves you in a strange, ineffable way, ask why. Re-read it. Read it aloud. Pay attention to the use of words, and the narrative voice, and the comic timing. If you don’t understand words, splurge on a really great dictionary and look those words up. The more words you know, the greater your control over language.
Read everything. How else will you work out what is good and what is bad? Give your time to Thomas Hardy, Dostoevsky, Doris Lessing and Dickens, but also read debut novels, genre fiction, contemporary fiction, history books, plays, TV scripts, poetry and memoirs. If you can’t afford new books, buy second-hand books. If you can’t afford second-hand books, get a library card. Get a library card anyway.
I’ve always loved reading, but I don’t think I ever understood how crucial it is to bettering writing practice until now. If I’m writing and I find myself in need of inspiration, or renewed focus, I will always go and read. Nine times out of ten I return to my work refreshed and exhilarated.
Last week we posted part one of an article by best-selling fantasy and young adult fiction author Cassandra Clare.
Continuing here, Cassandra shares tips and links writers of all genres will find extremely useful and answers many of the most popular questions asked by aspiring authors.
How do you go about getting published?
Read “How a Book Gets Published” by Nathan Bransford. Now come back and read the rest of this.
Write a book. There is no shortcut around this. Don’t even bother asking the question if you don’t have a book that’s been written and revised. It would be good if the book was commercially viable according to at least one person who is not you or your parents. (Hey, my parents thought my writing was brilliant when I was 13. It wasn’t.) Revising with the help of a critique group is often helpful.
Cassandra Clare is the author of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series. Her books have topped the New York Times best-seller lists, with over 22 million copies in print world wide. The film adaptation of City of Bones, the first book in The Mortal Instruments series, will be released in cinemas on 23 August.
In this post Cassandra Clare shares tips and links writers of all genres will find extremely useful and answers many of the most popular questions asked by aspiring authors.
Where do you start a book? With plot, characters, or dialogue?
I tend to start with characters, but everyone does it differently. There is no magic formula for the right order to write things in. Vivian Vande Velde has some good advice on her website about getting started writing a book.