Three top tips for young writers

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By Jade Craddock

The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writers of the Year Award is twenty-five years old this year and has been newly relaunched, recognising the best literary work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish writer of 35 and under. ♥

This year’s judges The Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate, The Sunday Times chief fiction reviewer Peter Kemp and author Sarah Waters, recipient of the award in 2000, selected the following nominations on the shortlist: Ben Fergusson for The Spring of Kasper Meier (Little, Brown); Sarah Howe for Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus); Sunjeev Sahota for The Year of the Runaways (Picador); Sara Taylor for The Shore (William Heineman), with the receiving £5000 and the runners-up £500.

The winner will be named on Thursday 10th December but until then Sarah Waters gives We Heart Writing her three top tips for young writers.

1. While you’re writing, read like mad – but read analytically. You will never be able to put a book together without an understanding of how other books work. I suspect that this is more a matter of instinct than anything else – but you can nurture that instinct by looking at other texts and thinking, ‘What’s successful here? What’s failing? And why?’

2. Don’t write for the market. Clue yourself up about what’s out there and what sells – and then forget it. The best novels are written with passion, not calculation. Your writing has to come from your heart, not from your desire to the Next Big Thing.

3. When you submit to an agent, be professional about it. Do your research: there’s a lot of advice available online, for example, about writing synopses and covering letters. Approach agents whose lists are a good match with your work. And don’t be squeamish or apologetic! Agents need books to survive, as do publishers. There is no reason why they shouldn’t want yours.


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