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Calling all budding novelists! Do you have a story to tell, but just don’t know where to start? Acclaimed author Frances Hardinge is here to help, says Sagal Mohammed. 

With multiple awards under her belt, including the 2015 Costa Book of the Year award for her epic children’s novel The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge knows exactly how to tell a gripping tale. Revealing her working process to the literature lovers and young, budding authors who fill the Barnes Booktop Marquee, she dishes out some useful advice on how to discipline yourself when writing a book. Here are her top five tips:

  1. Just start writing

For many, the first step is the hardest. Getting your thoughts onto paper can be difficult, but Frances suggests writing down everything you think of whether you think it’s brilliant or terrible. “I have brainstorming documents, brain files…they help me think things through,” she says.

2. Give yourself mini deadlines

“The best thing about writing is the freedom, but the worst thing about writing is the freedom,” she admits, emphasising the importance of setting yourself small, realistic deadlines throughout the writing process. But be patient – Frances explains that writing a first draft normally takes her a year.

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3Join a writers’ group

Throughout her talk, Frances refers to the significance of writers’ groups for support and feedback. “Sometimes there will be a chapter which isn’t quite working and I cannot think why so it’s good to have someone else with a fresh pair of eyes to say, ‘Well I didn’t understand this’ or ‘This could be said like that,’ and then I find things start to click again,” she says.

4. Get used to looking for ideas in unexpected places

Being alert helps Frances find inspiration in all sorts of places and can be a great way to get new ideas for your story.


5. Read as much as you can

Last but not least, a nice way to gain inspiration is by reading the work of other authors. “The more books you encounter and voices you hear, the easier it is to find your own.”

The Lie Tree


Images by; @LieselBockl


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