Writing Tips & Writer Self-Care


Getting Started

Starting with that blank piece of paper or screen in front of you can be hard – but don’t worry, every writer faces the same issue.

In this video award-winning writer David Almond shares his approach to creative writing, so be ready to be inspired!

The Book Trust have put together a whole slew of tips for writers on their website here – they are meant to be for teens, but we think every writer will find some great advice there.

If you are on Twitter, Gareth L. Powell and Joanne Harris are just two writers that often give our writing tips on their Social Media. But be warned, don’t get sucked into Twitterland and spend all your time there when you should be writing. #procrastination

More Opportunities for Writers

You have submitted your story and want to do write some more?

The Scottish Book Trust has kindly put together a list of opportunities for young writers here and for older writers here .

Lost the Plot?

Here is a great video of author Marcus Sedgewick talking about plotting a book with our friends at the Scottish Book Trust.

Want to write something scary? Authors Christopher Edge and Helena Duggan share some of their tips for writing creepy stories at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Read Around

Check out some short fiction online! Shoreline of Infinity is a great place to start and available online at most reasonable prices. Ditto Clarkesworld , or Blood Bath Literary Zine for those horror readers among you.

There’s also plenty of free stories online, such as the stories in online magazine Aether/Ichor, or on the website of publisher Tor.

If you prefer your reading to be offline, your local bookshop and of course local library will have plenty for you to choose from.

Writer Self-Care

We here at Cymera believe that young people have an amazing capacity for stories, and we can’t wait to read yours! To make sure we’ll be reading your stories for years to come, we are committed to helping you access support or guidance if you’re feeling uncertain or upset about your creative work or creative life.

Following the advice from our friends at the Scottish Book Trust, and the fabulous What’s Your Story? team, we have put together a little bit about Writer Self-Care (and by put together, we mean blatantly stolen – please don’t do that at home, it’s called plagiarism and is frowned upon).

Creative work can be difficult sometimes. Whether you are discovering that you want to explore difficult themes or subjects, or you are getting emotionally caught up in your story and aren’t sure what to do about that, it is important for any creative person – no matter what their age or experience is – to know how to take care of themselves.

Whether it is to do with your creative life or not, please remember that if you’re feeling low or uncertain, or just need to talk to somebody – ChildLine is an excellent place to start.

Here are some very quick tips for how to support yourself as a creative person:

Take breaks.

Sometimes that urge to make something can overwhelm us – this is true for all ages of people. When that happens, it’s a good idea to step back when you feel yourself being emotionally drained by your work. Just find a place to pause and stop.

Do something else for a while – hopefully something else that you enjoy, or that you know you need to get done. You might lose a little momentum but you won’t lose your purpose for making your work, and you won’t fail to create something. You will gain some perspective and give yourself space to reflect on why you’re finding your creative work difficult – and this is a great way to gain insight into what you are creating and why it is important to you. It’s a very mature thing to do, and we encourage you to do it.

Talk to somebody.

One of the reasons What’s Your Story? exists is to help build a teenage literary scene in Scotland, and a major reason to do that is so that you know you’re not on your own. We want you to know that other people are creating, that your work is part of a larger body of creativity being made by your peers and that you belong somewhere as a creative person. In time, we hope you will be able to connect to each other through creative writing groups or local opportunities, but for now, consider talking to a friend or an adult you trust about how you’re doing.

We focus a lot in society about promoting upbeat feelings – but that doesn’t mean you have to stay quiet when you feel sad or worried. If you don’t want to, or can’t, talk to somebody in your life, get in touch with our friends at ChildLine. Don’t be put off by the name, they’re brilliant for any young person up to the age of 18.

Be Your Own Friend.

This sounds goofy, but it is a good thing to do. If you just can’t get that one joke to work right, or that one scene to come together, or if you are getting worried about your creative life for some bigger reason, think of what you would sensibly advise a friend to do in your situation. Then go ahead and do that for yourself.

It might be as simple as making yourself a cup of tea, or texting somebody you trust for a chat. Or it might be a bit more complicated, like asking yourself why you are choosing to work on something that is proving quite tough and making decisions about if you will continue.

If you are working on something with difficult subject matter or themes and it is making you upset, don’t be afraid to ask for help from people you trust or from a trained group of people like ChildLine. After all, your creative work will mostly happen in your imagination before it comes to life in the real world, so you are the first and maybe the only person who will know if you need some help or advice with how it makes you feel.

In that case, you need to be your own friend, and look out for yourself.

Finally, we want to let you know that when we decided to launch our short fiction competition, we understood that we had to make a visible and useful commitment to your welfare as young people.

We are not experts in the field of mental health, or counselling, or teaching. We are arts administrators, readers and writers who love creativity and literature and who want to support you as you are building your own literary scene in Scotland. Part of that support is demonstrating to you that we have a responsibility for your welfare, and letting you know what we will do if we become concerned.

We know that creative work sometimes takes a darker twist, or explores themes and topics which are upsetting or worrying. Creativity is not just about ‘nice stuff’ and is an incredibly valuable way to explore and understand parts of life or imagination that we often are reluctant to bring out in public under other circumstances.

But we need you to know that if we become concerned for your welfare after having contact with you through any aspect of the Cymera short fiction competition, we may take steps to connect you to professionals or resources which we believe can assist you. This is our responsibility to be proactive and mindful of your welfare, as adults choosing to work with young people should be.

We here at Cymera and Shoreline of Infinity would like to thank the Scottish Book Trust and the What’s Your Story? team for their help and advice.