We have a guest on the blog today! None other than the author of the brilliant fantasy adventure Frostheart, Jamie Littler, who was recently shortlisted for the Branford Boase Book Award along with his editor, Naomi Colthurst. Frostheart is his first published book as an author/illustrator. Described by The Bookseller as a “A rip-roaring action adventure, full of humour, heart and unforgettable characters”, it holds a well-deserved spot on the shortlist!
Jamie shares his top tips for writing today, with some brilliant insights into what’s important for anyone wanting to get into writing. Welcome to the blog Jamie!
“I was thrilled to be asked to write a guest post for the Book Activist and to share some of the tips that helped me to write my fantasy-adventure book, Frostheart.
It’s definitely the question I get asked the most: ‘Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get into writing?’ Now, I could go on about making sure you read lots, (which is important!), or learning how to use proper grammar (which is always nice, I suppose), but those aren’t the things that really helped me to write my book. No, the biggest, most spectacularly important secret to writing a story is this: have fun. That’s it – that’s the secret! Thank you for reading, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Oh, you want an explanation?
Okay, here goes.
I’ve been an illustrator for ten years, but my dream was always to write my own stories as well as to draw them. And I tried and tried, but my stories were always turned down by the publishers. I could’ve made wallpaper out of all the rejection letters I received (and did – but believe me, it’s a very ugly room to be in). At first, the rejections were hard to hear. “You know that story you wrote, the one you worked really, really hard on? Yeah, well, it’s rubbish.” I mean, they were never quite so rude, but that was the general gist of it. And sadly, they were right. I still had a lot to learn, and there were many ways my writing needed to improve. But practice makes perfect.
So, I kept on trying. I wrote another story, and another. And another after that. Some will never leave my work-in-progress drawer (aka the bin), others I was super proud of, but they were never to be. Gradually, the rejections began to change in tone. They now said that the writing was fine, the idea was good, but something was still not clicking. I was banging my head against a wall, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be an author after all?
One day, I was talking to another author about my ideas. I asked which one they thought would give me the biggest chance of getting a publishing deal. They said it didn’t matter what they thought, I had to write the story that meant something to me. Deep down, they said, I knew which one I wanted to write. And it was then that it hit me. I’d been so desperate to get my story turned into a book, I’d been writing what I thought I should’ve been writing, instead of what I truly wanted to write. I’d been looking at what books were popular at the time; the kinds of books I should try to make. But those books meant something to the authors who wrote them, they didn’t mean anything to me.
I vowed to write a story that I would’ve wanted to read, the type of book that kept me turning the pages, something that filled me with excitement, that felt so enjoyable that it couldn’t possibly be considered actual work. I vowed to have fun, even if what I was writing wasn’t the most popular type of book at the time. And if a few other readers enjoyed it to, then all the better.
The next story I wrote became Frostheart, my first published book as an author/illustrator. Writing a story is personal. Try not to focus on what others say a good story should be. If you make something that you enjoy writing, it will shine through on the pages, and the readers will be whisked away by your passion and enthusiasm. They will fall in love with your characters, they will gasp at what happens to them, and they will stay up late to reach the last page. Grammar, spelling, all of that comes later. What’s important is that you’re writing the story you want to tell.
Oh, and try not to make wallpaper out of your rejection letters, it really isn’t a great look.”