Writing tips from the Desmond Elliott Prize longlist

CgY8TAcWEAARzvH.jpg_largeIf you’re looking to write and publish your own debut novel, here are some wise words of advice from this year’s Desmond Elliot Prize longlist.


Joanna Cannon: Read. Always, and in every genre. There is nothing more uplifting than someone else’s beautiful prose.

Janet Ellis:  Don’t lose your voice. It’s your lifejacket in a sea of doubt, difficulty and delays.  You might think it weighs you down and that you’ll swim better without it but, of course, you’ll sink.

Tasha Kavanagh: Immerse yourself in your story, feel love for it and its characters, and push through.

Sara Baume: If your sole ambition is to write and publish, reconsider. If you actually feel you have something to express, and no better tools with which to express it; that’s a better place to start from.

Lisa McInerney: Obsess over it, for as long as it takes, till you’re drunk with it, until everything around you reminds you of it. But then get a very, very sober reader to give you notes . . . and for God’s sake, listen to them!

Renée Knight: Don’t rush in sending your work out to agents or publishers. Take your time and when you have a completed draft sit on it, wait for as long as you can bear, read it again, edit and repeat that process until you have made it as good as you possibly can.

Julia Rochester: Keep going! Often a writer’s first published novel is not the first novel they’ve written.

Gavin McCrea: I hesitate to give advice to other writers at any stage of their careers because the opposite of anything I might say would almost certainly be equally valid. If I could talk to my own younger self, I would probably tell him to stop chasing the approval of other people, learn to be alone more, and read, read, read. To which he would probably respond: shut up and let me live.

Anthony Trevelyan: Persist. Simply that. It took me five books and ten years to find a publisher (though, when I did, in Galley Beggar Press I found an awesome one). Persist and persist and persist.