Evie Wyld’s first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. Her second novel, All the Birds, Singing was published in 2013 and won the Miles Franklin Award, the Encore Award and the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize.
We persuaded Wyld to share her tips on how to write an award-winner.
Don’t get too preoccupied with what you’re writing about. Try and write 1000 words a day and you’ll discover whatever it is that you’re really interested in will float to the surface.
I never start my books at the beginning of the story, I just write around the place that interests me. Then at a later date you can work out how it all fits together. I also tend to write the first chapter last.
Treat these the same way as the plot. You might have a loose idea about a character but it’s only when you start writing that you discover what they’re like and how they respond to their surroundings, to other people and situations. Then their behaviour drives the plot. This is the real beauty of writing fiction, when you get to a point where you’re following cues from a character and developing a relationship with them.
Give your book the time and space it needs. This, for me, can mean years. It’s a very overcrowded market so whatever you publish needs to be the best in order to compete. If you get stuck, take a couple of months off so you can return to your story with fresh eyes. I’d also advise not talking about your book to anyone. Once you’ve voiced something it can be hard to break away from it, which I find somehow deflates the writing.
4. Working hours
Find out how when work best. For me, it’s first thing in the morning before I speak to anyone. There’s the stereotypical image of an author writing late at night with a bottle of red wine – I‘d love to work like that but have never been able to. It’s equally important to understand that you can’t always sit down at your desk. You need to be able to write in hotel rooms and on trains.
It sounds obvious, but keep reading. If you get stuck, read something by an author you admire and work out how they did it. Don’t worry that you might be influenced by another person’s work; we’re influenced by everything and better for it.
6. Edit aloud
When editing, read the whole book out loud. You’ll find yourself tripping over sentences that don’t work and you can hear the parts that don’t sound genuine.
7. Don’t worry about the end
Never fixate on the finished product. When I’m writing I never think about the book being a bestseller or winning awards. You have no control over how other people see your work, so just do your best and work hard.