Philip Pullman – Tips on writing

The Guardian(UK) ran an article, to celebrate the launch of the Guardian children’s books website, on Philip Pullman. It contained a series of questions put to Philip by young readers and his answers. There were some great questions put to Philip and asked in a way that only young people can/do. Questions began with some about his latest book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ?, went on to His Dark Materials trilogy and  I Was a Rat!. They asked about his own reading habits and reading in general and for some insight into his writing.  His answers were considered and thoughtful. It is an interesting article for all Pullman readers and for writers as well.

The last question (and answer) was one I shall be highlighting to some aspiring writers in my school.

What are your tips for aspiring novelists?

There are several things I think it’s important for an aspiring writer to know. When I was young I read all kinds of that sort of advice, and I thought it was all rubbish. Later on I found out for myself how important a few things are, and I’ll tell you three of them here.

  • One: work every day. Get into the habit of it. Work when you don’t feel like it, when you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend or boyfriend, when you’re feeling ill, when you’ve got homework to do. Put your work first. Habit is your greatest ally. Get into the habit of writing when you’re young and it’ll stay with you. Sixteen is a very good age to start.
  • Two: find out what way of working (place, time, writing instrument, desk light, and so on) suits you, and insist that you get it.
  • Three: don’t listen to anyone who tells you you should study what the public wants, and give it to them. They don’t know what they want, or they’d be writing it themselves. It’s not their job to tell you what to write. It’s your job to write something they could never have thought of, and then offer it to them. Good luck!
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