With the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature wrapping up over the weekend, we asked five guest authors for writing and reading tips.
The Nigerian Man Booker-winning novelist challenges aspiring writers to take on what he calls “The Five-Minute Leap”. The first step is to sit down and, without thinking, write about something you observed earlier in the day.
Okri then advises writers to underline key words and images that jump out from the written passage. “That piece of writing is not your voice,” he says. “Instead, it is your voice trapped inside.”
Next, in half the time, condense the passage into one sentence, using the underlined keywords.
“Writing is writing,” says Okri. “You just put it down and there is nothing fanciful about it. Finding your voice is about getting the stuff out and then condensing it into the smallest, tightest essence. One true sentence is worth more than one bad novel.”
The Scottish crime writer of the acclaimed -Inspector Rebus novels advises that age is not a barrier.
“I know many authors who found success in their 50s and 60s,” he says. “You’ve got to be a passionate reader because you will find styles that interest you and stories that are not being told. Then you find a story that you want to share with the world. When you start writing, it is a very private affair.
“However, the biggest jump that you are ever going to take is at some point you are going to show that story to a stranger and then there might be some criticism. You’ve got to learn to take criticism and rejection and just persevere. The first Rebus novel was rejected by the first five publishers who saw it.”
“You can’t get children to read, like you force them to eat certain foods or get them to take their medicine,” says the writer of the successful Alex Rider young-fiction series.
“I believe that you can only share your enthusiasm if books are in your house, it’s part of your culture and you talk about it. And when your child goes to bed, you read with your child and the problem is solved – the child will grow up with books in his life.”
The creator of mind mapping explains that creativity is innate and resides within all of us but it’s what we do with it that counts.
“Creativity is thought of as something random, mystical, mysterious or something that you are gifted with. This means that you are either creative or not, and for me this is all cul-de-sac thinking,” he says.
“Creativity is a natural fountain of imaginative energy and it can be encouraged, nourished, directed and expressed in music, poetry, dance, art, theatre, humour, conversation, in bringing up children and even gardening. It’s a natural ability that can be enhanced.”
“You have to fight to find the time to write. That’s how much you should enjoy it,” says the successful thriller author. “You are going to get frustrated at times. I get so incredibly frustrated that I wake up in a cold sweat because I can’t figure out how the next scene in the book is going to work or if anyone is going to like it. At the end of the day, however, you need to derive emotional pleasure and fulfilment from writing.”
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