Goodreads asked Kia Abdullah:

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Kia Abdullah In terms of writing in general:

1. One of the most heartening things I ever heard was from Ira Glass on the subject of taste. He explains that your work will disappoint you for the first few years of your career because you’re falling short of your impeccable taste. So many writers quit before they break through that wall. The ones who make it are the ones who keep going. If you’re an aspiring writer, do listen to the quote in full:

2. How do you know that you have writing talent? You don’t have to be a millionaire; you don’t even have to make a meagre living. Instead, says Stephen King, if you write something for which someone sends you a check, if you cash the check and it doesn’t bounce, and if you then pay the light bill with the money, you can consider yourself talented.

3. There is always going to be someone better than you. There is always going to be someone who is not better but *is* more successful. Bite down your jealousy and just keep working.

4. Don’t be disheartened by writers more prolific than you. The fields of publishing and media have plenty of people who are either independently wealthy or supported by a wealthy partner. Don’t be daunted by their seemingly effortless ascension. Bite down your jealousy and just keep working.

5. Read classics, read contemporaries, read, read, read. I have an alarm on my phone that goes off at 8.30 every evening to remind me to cut off my screen time (computer, phone, social media) and to read instead. It doesn’t always work but it often does.

6. Man Booker winner Anne Enright said the first 12 years are the worst. For most of us, that's true.

In terms of writing a novel:

1. Your protagonist doesn’t have to be an asshole at the start of the novel to change for the better over the course of the story. Whatever happens, they should be likeable – or at least redeemable.

2. Always ask yourself two questions about your novel: What does my hero want? What does my hero achieve? I once wrote an entire book and realised at the end that the hero achieved nothing. She was involved in all sorts of exciting and wonderful things, but was reactive and not proactive. Your lead character must achieve something even if it’s something as nebulous as happiness.

3. Read out loud. This is incredibly important. It will help you catch sentences that seem okay on paper, but not when read out loud. I must have read one particular sentence of mine dozens of times on paper before reading it out loud and spotting the ungraceful repetitiveness of ‘corridor’ and ‘door’.

4. Use beta readers. Once your novel is ‘done’ (i.e. written and revised at least twice), ask four to five people for their honest feedback. They will pick up untold numbers of plot holes, errors, inconsistencies and clichés for which you will be eternally grateful.

5. Delete anything that couples the month of the year with a weather condition (e.g. September wind, March rain, July heat). I often do this and it always comes off clichéd.

6. If your character has a complicated timeline, give her a birthday in early January. It will make all the years, ages and major events easier to follow.

7. Identify and delete your writing tics. I used on a finished novel and realised there was a crazy number of “she nodded” and “she shook her head”. Run your novel through the tool to identify and delete your crutch words and phrases.

Okay, that’s it for now. If you have questions on any of this, please ask!

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