Sinead’s top ten tips to writing a novel


  1. First and foremost be passionate about writing. Because if you aren’t, you wont finish the book. It’s actually extremely hard to write a book. It’s frustrating and at times torturous. So you need to be absolutely determined and passionate about your book to ensure you get to the end.
  2. Do a chapter breakdown before you begin. Just a line or two about what each chapter will be about. I find this incredibly helpful because it stops me going off on tangents and ending up with 20,000 words I can’t use because it hasn’t led anywhere. Obviously some chapters will change and the story will move in different directions at certain stages, but the chapter breakdown will keep you on track and you will know where the story is going and how to get there.
  3. You have to be disciplined. Forget about the laundry, dinner, housework….turn your phone off and avoid daytime TV at all costs. Go straight to your desk/kitchen table/library, wherever your write and sit there. You may only write three lines, but I promise you it will move the story along, even if you end up deleting it. While you are sitting there feeling utterly despondent, your mind is working and you will come up with new ideas the next day (or maybe the day after that!) It’s like when you’re trying to get fit, you have to go to the gym and exercise. And even though you hate it, you always feel good after it. It’s the same with writing – sweat it out.
  4. Remember that everything is interesting if the writer is passionate about it. A chapter about cooking dinner can be riveting if it is well written. Nothing is too mundane to write about. You don’t need to create a fantasy world. Real life is very colourful if you look at it from a fresh angle.
  5. Don’t try to imitate someone else’s style. Write the way you speak. Write as if you’re talking to someone. It will ring true and be new and fresh. No two people tell a story the same way. Be yourself!
  6. Believe in yourself. You will get knocked back. I’m sorry but that is the reality of it. Not everyone is going to like your book. People in publishing can be very blunt. Be prepared for criticism. But don’t let it stop you from achieving your goal. Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and keep trying.
  7. There is no right or wrong way. Everyone said to me you have to have an agent before you can get a publisher to look at your work. I got a publisher to look at my work and had an offer before I found an agent. The most important thing is to be professional. Deliver a double space, one side only, page numbered manuscript. Do your research, Target the correct agents and publishers for your genre of book. All of the information you need can be found in The Writers and Artists Yearbook and also in the acknowledgments page of published books in your genre. Every writer thanks their agent and editor. Take note of the names and target them.
  8. Join a creative writing group. It’s all very well showing your work to friends and family, but unless you want to hear platitudes – or cause a family feud if someone rubbishes it – you’re best to get objective feedback from a creative writing group. It changed my life and definitely helped me get published. The feedback from fellow classmates and my tutor was invaluable.
  9. Finish your book. If it never gets published you have done something incredible. It is an amazing achievement to finish a book and no one can ever take that away from you, whether you are lucky enough to get published or not.
  10. When you’re not writing, READ. Read everything you can get your hands on. Even badly written books are not a waste of time. They merely reassure you that you can do better!