At Lulu we are passionate about encouraging young writers to fulfil their potential, which is why we are proud to support Brighton Festival 2018 Peacock Poetry Prize celebrating young poets aged 11-19. We want to nurture and inspire all young writers so we’ve listed our top 5 tips to get you on your way.
Top Tip 1: Read, read and then read some more
If you enjoy writing then you probably like reading too. It’s hugely beneficial to read widely as reading different sorts of books not only exposes you to different narrative voices and styles but also expands your vocabulary. As Stephen King puts it: “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so.”
Some of us read books that we believe we should read, even books we’re not genuinely that excited about – it could be the latest bestseller or an established classic. Forcing yourself to read something you’re not excited about usually makes it easier to put off reading and get into a reading slump.
In short, don’t just read what you think you should read or what you’ve been told to read. Obviously if you have to read certain books for your studies then it’s important to read these – plus you could get a pleasant surprise and actually enjoy them! You never know until you try. But if you enjoy reading comics and graphic novels or romances and horror books in your spare time then go ahead. It’s important to read as much as you can and you’re more likely to read if you’re genuinely interested in what you’re reading. The reason some people don’t like reading is because they associate it with school and studying but reading shouldn’t feel like work and it should be a pleasure to read.
Top Tip 2: Write what you’re passionate about – don’t write for others
It’s easy to think you should write something that you think will be marketable and popular instead of something that comes naturally to you. You shouldn’t feel restricted by a particular genre or style – write what you want and develop your own style and voice. Don’t let friends or family put you off and tell you that you your idea isn’t good enough or that you should write something more literary or commercial. If you want to write about football or a fantasy world you’ve created or if you prefer writing poetry, short stories or comics, don’t feel that you have to write a 500 page novel. Don’t feel like you have to emulate successful authors or write about popular subjects. If you write from the heart and write about what you’re genuinely interested in, you will write with conviction and it will be easier to write every day.
Top Tip 3: Set time aside to write and make writing a habit
It’s harder than ever to stay focused on something as there are so many distractions that keep you from sticking to one task like writing. It’s so easy to get preoccupied with your phone, social media, TV, etc. Try to set time aside to write each day and prepare yourself by eliminating any distractions. Hide your phone or place it on the other side of the room, turn off the TV, close any web browsers so you don’t get preoccupied with something else. Decide to work for however long you have, whether it’s one hour or a whole afternoon. Consistency is the key – try to write every day as you’ll get into a rhythm and won’t lose momentum. Most of us manage to set time aside to watch a movie or spend time on social media – this means you can put time aside to write. You’ll only improve as a writer by writing as much as you can. Practice makes perfect.
Top Tip 4: Writing Space
Have a designated, comfortable place to write. It could be at your desk in your bedroom or even the kitchen table. Some people find it easier to write in a public area like a café or library – find a place that suits you, wherever you feel inspired and productive. Make sure you’re armed with everything you need: your charged laptop, notebook, pens, etc. You might need total silence or maybe some background music. Instrumental music is ideal as you won’t concentrate on the lyrics or be tempted to sing along. Many authors have book playlists on Spotify, for example Rainbow Rowell has playlists for each book she writes (you’ll need a Spotify account to access them).
It might be helpful to have a writing routine, like writing at the same time every day and combining it with something enjoyable. Something like lighting a scented candle or having a treat like a hot chocolate while you write can get you motivated and ready for writing.
Top Tip 5: Always have a notebook on you
Despite this being the digital age, stationery is just as popular as ever. Getting the right sort of notebook that suits you – with blank, wide or narrow lined pages – with your favourite pen can encourage you to put your thoughts down on paper. You might be on the bus or just about to go to sleep when you suddenly get an idea or that all-important phrase you’ve been mulling over and you need to write your thoughts down before you forget them. Having a designated notebook for brainstorming and random thoughts is very useful and gives your eyes a well-deserved break from your screen. Having said that, if you’re permanently glued to your phone you could use a note taking app like Evernote – apps like these are useful as you can sync everything between your phone, laptop and tablet.
We hope you found these tips useful. If you’re a young poet, there’s still time to enter the Brighton Festival 2018 Peacock Poetry Prize. The deadline for entries is 16 April 2018 and the award ceremony will be held at Brighton Dome Founders Room on 23 May 2018.