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Young Writers Prize: Our Top Ten Writing Tips

Hello one and all! It’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for a top ten countdown.

writing tips

This week – our top ten writing tips to have come out of this year’s Young Writers Prize. We had a ton of entries, and the quality of this year’s writing was even stronger than last year. However, there was only space on the long-list for a very select few, so we thought we would compile some advice for those of you who didn’t make it – and for any other writers out there.

From the mouths of the judges themselves:

1. Write the book that you want to write – don’t feel pressure to write something that you think will ‘please’ a publisher. Publishers are rarely looking for something to fill a gap – and this is especially true at Hot Key!

2. And on that note: “If something’s not working, have enough confidence to start writing something new. Practice will always make you even better – and instead of getting lost editing the same thing over and over, put it away and double your chances of getting published with something completely new.” Sara O’Connor, Editorial Director for Hot Key Books

3. “I think it’s important for authors to be careful at the beginning of the book to not to go too far when establishing their world. If they exaggerate the back story and mythology too much, and make it too complex, they tend to not capture the reader enough with the actual plot, and end up losing the reader’s interest. It’s best to start off on the story straight away, without worrying about building the world too much, and then do it gradually. The plot always needs to be the main focus!”  Mariana Podmore, Sales Assistant for Red Lemon Press

4. “Always check your entry for typos! An alarming amount of mine had sloppy mistakes. Although this wouldn’t be completely off-putting if I really liked the voice and the writing it does make me think twice.” Naomi Colthurst, Editorial Assistant for Hot Key Books

5. “Know when to employ dialogue effectively! I had a few entries which read like a screenplay… Some things are better left unsaid.” Cait Davies, Sales & Marketing Executive for Hot Key Books

6. “Explain yourself! As in, do not jump from one random event to another, with no connection or explanation, because whilst you may know the story, it’s the first time for the rest of us!” Fay Evans, Editorial Assistant for Red Lemon Press

7. But that said… don’t feel like you have to describe every little detail. We all had a few entries that literally described how someone took each step. No one has time for that I’m afraid!

8. “Make sure your characters GO somewhere – as in have some clear development. I’m fed up with books that present a character in one way, letting them grow for a few chapters because it fits in with the story and then reverting back to beige and bog standard.”  Livs Mead, Sales & Marketing Assistant for Hot Key Books

9.Whilst we’re on the subject of characters: “Let your characters tell the story, don’t force them into a plot and/or genre. It was so frustrating to get excited about a really interesting character, who seemed to be getting ready for an interesting experience, only to flip the page and find out they will have to make their way in a dystopian fairyland full of vampires.” Amy Orringer, (ex!) Digital Co-ordinator for Hot Key Books

10. And finally… keep going! Prepare yourself for the fact that only a very tiny and select group of authors get the first thing they ever wrote published – so if you’re not successful first time round, DON’T GIVE UP!

I hope you’ve found our tips helpful, and we hope you’ll all submit again next year! Tweet us @HotKeyBooks or comment below if you have any further questions…