Younger writers – this page is for you!
The first thing is, I can’t quite imagine how you can write if you don’t read. I’ve always read masses and masses. My mum used to tell me off because I would lie on the floor on my front, with my book under an armchair (the kind with legs, obviously). She said it would affect my eyesight. (Annoyingly, I did develop short sight, but I don’t think that was anything to do with the reading.) I must have been very much in the way, but I don’t remember anyone actually falling over me.
There are so many reasons to read. I think the chief one for me is that a book is a door into so many other worlds. You can go to other countries, other times – other worlds. You can get to know people who are very different from you, or you can get to know more – much more – about the people you see around you every day: what they’re thinking, what they like, what they’re afraid of, why they do what they do. I started a book yesterday and finished it today, and while I was reading it, I was totally immersed. (These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly, since you ask: brilliant historical romance and thriller, set in 1890s New York.)
And writing lets you do the same. Through the stories I’ve written (not all of which have been published), I’ve been to the Himalayas in the early 19th century, to Wessex in the Dark Ages, to Eastern Europe during the Second World War, to a desert island (with pirates), to a school for ghosts. And since I’ve been writing seriously, I’ve learned so much. The more you do, the more you learn and the better you get.
So this is the big tip: if you want to write, WRITE! The more you write, the better you’ll get. So get yourself a notebook, and WRITE THINGS IN IT!
What kind of things? Well – maybe you see someone with an interesting face – so try to describe it. Then imagine what sort of place they live in, what they’re interested in – what they’re worried about, what makes them happy, what’s just happened to them… ask questions!
Or perhaps you’ve heard something interesting in the news – or you’ve been to a new place – or you’ve seen an interesting street name. (My favourite is There And Back Again Lane, which is in Bristol.) Or you could make lists – words you like, words you don’t like, words to do with light, what sound the waves make when they crash onto the beach…