Friday, 14 August 2015

Words of Writing Wisdom by Karen King

One of the most useful pieces of advice I was given early in my writing career was ‘give your character a problem then solve it’. I was writing for several children’s magazines at the time and often had to come up with stories at very short notice so this advice was given me by one of my editors. I found it really helpful and it got me out of many a tight spot when I received a phone call at 11 pm to write a story that day and post it as the editor needed it the next morning (this was in the days before email and fax!) 

Of course the stories were very short and based around existing characters such as  Rainbow, Thomas the Tank Engine and Winnie the Pooh, but it can be a good basis for longer stories too.

 Every story needs conflict and if you think about it the basis for stories is usually the character having to overcome some problem. I often give this advice to my writing students adding ‘solve it in an unexpected way’ as it’s good to have a twist at the end of the story so the reader doesn’t guess the ending.

Other writers I’ve talked to said they often remember and still act on writing tips they were given early in their career too. I like to pass on advice so a couple of weeks ago I asked authors to contribute to my blog post on writing tips. They gave me varied advice from ‘don’t wait for inspiration to strike, just write. You can delete the bad bits after’ (Ann Evans) to ‘avoiding ‘ly adverbs in dialogue tags’(Kimber Leigh Wheaton)

Were you given good advice early on in your writing career? What advice would you give to a new writer today?

Karen King writes all sorts of books. Check out her website at


Emma Barnes said...

Thanks for that, Karen. One of the tips on your tip sheet that I've also found very helpful is uploading manuscripts to kindle for the first read through. It means I then read more as a "reader" and less as an "editor" so I get a better overview and am less bogged down in detail.

Karen said...

It's a great tip, isn't it, Emma? I think you're right and we can get too bogged down with detail that a reader won't notice.

Kimber Leigh Wheaton said...

Give your character a problem and solve it is great advice!

Karen said...

I think so, Kimber. It's come in very useful over the years:)

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, I've turned my WIP into an ebook and loaded it on to my cyber bookshelf to look at. I got so tired of scrolling down the manuscript pages and I wasn't going to print it all out - waste of paper! Trees cut down! And yes, you can look at it as a reader.