I thought I'd share an advice sheet that I put together for my students at the end of their ten week course. Every batch of students do an exercise in which I ask them to list the reasons - practical and emotional - which stop them writing. Then I compile a list of all the reasons together. Every time they are surprised to find how the same things trip up almost everyone, especially those depressing self-judging emotions.
So, this is what I tell them:
1 Create a writing routine - identify times when you can (at least) think about your story once a day and write at least three times a week. Do not try and write all day every day - a few hours concentrated work is fine. You might have to get up early or wait until everyone else is in bed. Be tough about it. You deserve a few hours a week to yourself
2. Create goals - short and long term. So aim to write a certain amount of words a day, and have a date in mind when the book will be finished. Tell yourself that it is more important to reach that goal than anything else - should stop you fretting too much over whether it is perfect or not.
3. It won’t be perfect immediately - it’s only a first draft! So stop winding yourself up and just get on with it.
4. One project at a time is best. It's too easy to get distracted.
5. You need to be in love with and excited by your story. Think about what makes you love a book - the story, the characters, the writing - and use that as your way in.
6. Have a list of writing exercises ready to help you develop your story and combat writer’s block. So if you run out of steam use your writing time to write a letter from one character to another, or send them into the future, or write about their past, or write an outline of the story . You do not have to write your story chronologically.
7. Find a writing space. A café can work very well. Lots of people find it difficult to work at home.
8. Write about yourself as a child – this can help with depression and feelings of low self esteem, by giving you a new perspective on your own childhood. Sometimes writing for children can stir up old memories - but writing about them, especially in a fictionalised form, can help a lot.
9. Failure can be defined so many ways that it’s not worth worrying about. You might fail to get an agent/publisher/sell many copies/win prizes etc. What matters is that you enjoy writing and think your work is good, and that children enjoy reading it.
10 Read books for children. Get involved in the world of children’s writing (SCBWI is a good place to start). Get on twitter, Facebook. Have fun.