The Crime Writers’ Association

Seven Writing Tips from Leigh Russell

Chair of the CWA Debut Dagger judges, Leigh Russell, has sold well over a million books.

  1. Writer’s Block
    The best cure for writer’s block is a deadline. If you’re not fortunate enough to have an external deadline set by a publisher, you can help yourself by setting your own goals and deadlines. But hopefully you will enjoy writing so much that you will never experience writer’s block!
  2. The Best Time to Write
    There are no rules governing the writing day, but it is important to discover what suits you best and stick to it. Ruth Rendell had the right idea when she said, ‘Find your own time and place. How many words a day? I don’t know.’
  3. Write About What You Know
    It’s a common adage to write about what you know. Personally, I find that advice stultifying. A  more useful precept might be to write about what you find interesting. I’ve never committed murder but am fascinated by the psyche of people who kill. If it was necessary to kill someone before writing about the experience, we would have very few crime novels – or fuller prisons. As a writer you are blessed with empathy and imagination. Use them.
  4. Enjoy Writing
    Ionesco famously said, ‘A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of writing or thinking about writing.’ Some of us feel we have no choice and certainly, once you commit yourself to writing, it becomes, as William McIlvanney said, ‘an inexplicable compulsion’. So choose to write something you are going to enjoy writing. I’m sorry to say that I have never had any desire to suffer for my art. Writing should be a joyful experience. If you do not love every minute of it, find something else to do.
  5. Having a Story
    You cannot force inspiration. We don’t find our stories. They find us. F Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.’ If you don’t have a story that you need to tell, forget about writing until a story arrives in your head.
  6. Rewriting
    There are authors who write a few words each day that they never subsequently change, but they are rare. Like most writers, I tend to write and rewrite and rewrite. This is where deadlines become so important. Without them, we could go on interminably tweaking and honing our prose.
  7. Trust Yourself
    Whatever help and guidance you receive along the way, never forget that you are the writer. Above all else, trust yourself.

You can contact Leigh, friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter via her website accessed from her CWA profile page here.


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