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Pam Rhodes Writers Tip

Pam RhodesPam Rhodes is known around the world as the presenter of BBC Television’s Songs of Praise and her popular Hearts and Hymns programme on Premier Christian Radio. She describes herself as an ‘anorak’ in her fascination for hymns old and new, and her books on hymn-writers, like Love So Amazing, Then Sings My Soul and Hear My Song are essentials in many a church vestry! A natural storyteller with 25 varied books under her belt, Pam is perhaps best known for her novels packed with down-to-earth characters and situations that inspire and entertain. ‘Springtime At Hope Hall’ is the first book in her ‘Hope Hall’ series.

Today, Pam offers advice to budding writers.

I think they should concentrate on the sheer joy of writing. Go to a writing course, if you feel that would help – but don’t let some suggested technique stop you just starting to write down what you want to say first, and then just letting your own imagination fill the page for you. It doesn’t matter if no one but you ever reads it, or if it is eventually published and read by thousands. The main thing is to enjoy the act of writing, which is as compelling as reading – and, I think, much more fulfilling.

Read more about Pam and her writing journey in her interview here.

Charlotte Duckworth

Charlotte DuckworthCharlotte Duckworth is a graduate of the Faber Academy’s acclaimed six-month ‘Writing a Novel’ course. Charlotte started her career working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazines and websites. Alongside writing, she also runs her own website design studio. Her debut novel called ‘The Rival’ was published in 2018 and today is the publication day of her second book called ‘Unfollow Me’

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    Hello! Thanks for having me! I’m Charlotte and I started my career as a journalist working in magazines. I always wanted to write novels (and finished my very first aged about 11, painstakingly typed up on my electric typewriter!) but when I was at university and informed the careers advisor of my plan, he told me novel-writing was a ridiculous idea for a career, and suggested I become a journalist instead. So I did.

    I’m not cross about it as I had an absolutely lovely time working in magazines, and later on, on websites. It was a great Plan B!

    However, deep down I knew that novel-writing was my ‘thing’ and so I have always written on the side. I managed to get an agent when I was in my early 20s, but it took a long time to get a book deal. My first novel, ‘The Rival,’ was published in 2018, and ‘Unfollow Me’ is my second. My third, ‘The Perfect Father’, is out next year.

  2. Tell us about your new book called ‘Unfollow Me’.
    ‘Unfollow Me’ stems from my own fascination with the world of influencers, and tells the story of Violet Young, a hugely popular mummy vlogger, who goes ‘missing’ from the online world, deleting all her social media accounts overnight with no warning. The book is written from the perspective of two of her most obsessive fans, Lily and Yvonne, who desperately try to uncover what’s happened to her. With plenty of twists and turns along the way!

    It’s a bit different from many other novels about social media as I wanted to explore the lives of the people addicted to the influencers, rather than the influencer herself. I find these super fans really intriguing – the lengths they will go to for their idol, and the intensity of the feelings they have for someone they have never met.

  3. Why did you decide to write crime?
    I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision! I have tried several times over the years to write more uplifting novels and they always end up turning dark…

    I remember reading an interview with Gillian Flynn where she said ‘the darker the books are, the nicer the author is’ and her pondering that perhaps writing dark books gets something out of your system. I like that idea! Generally speaking I’m a pretty happy, laidback person.

    I suppose I am fascinated with what makes ordinary people do ‘bad’ things, and really digging around inside a character’s psyche, to get to the stuff they want to keep hidden. We all have some of that bad stuff inside us, it’s just on a spectrum, and hidden better in some people than others!

  4. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I am lucky enough to have lots of author friends, so rather than risk inviting a load of my heroes (‘never meet your idols’!), I’d go for tried and tested and I know I’d have an amazing time. So, just off the top of my head: Caroline Hulse, Rebecca Fleet, Ros Anderson, Catherine Law, Holly Race, Karen Hamilton, Phoebe Locke…
  5. Unfollow Me

  6. Who’s your favourite literary villain?
    I think given that I’ve quoted Gillian above, I’d have to say Amy from ‘Gone Girl’. That book just blew me away – and Amy was a delicious character. I loved her, despite how awful she was. She was completely real to me and I completely understood why she did what she did.
  7. Is there anything that you would change about your writing journey?
    I have a rule never to regret anything, and I genuinely do believe everything happens for a reason. I wish I could have been as disciplined about writing when I was in my 20s as I am now. But I don’t think I was as good a writer then. Writing is the best career as it’s one of the ones where you get better with age.
  8. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    All stages are both my least and most favourite depending on what stage I’m working on at the time!

    I probably like the daydreaming bit the best – when you’ve got an idea and can go for long walks planning it all in your head. And it feels like the most perfect book ever written. Except it hasn’t actually been written yet…

  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
     I’m really sorry to be so absolutely unoriginal but it’d have to be the first line of ‘Rebecca’ – ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’.

    That book was a formative one for me. I must have read it a dozen times over the years. And it’s partly the reason I called my daughter Daphne.

  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    The first three Adrian Mole books because they would cheer me up!
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Discipline. Ring-fencing your writing time, putting your writing first and making it a priority. I’ve met so many excellent writers who just never finish anything because they don’t make writing their priority. But writing is really, really hard work, and you have to be disciplined and put in the hours or you don’t stand a chance of finishing.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Chewing gum and a bottle of water. Very boring (and sorry that’s two items). I drink loads of water while I’m writing and I chew gum to stop me reaching for biscuits. And I read somewhere that it helps you concentrate, although I’m not sure if that’s actually true.
  13. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m writing the first draft of my fourth book at the moment but my third, ‘The Perfect Father’, is already finished and will be released next year. It’s about a stay-at-home dad, who isn’t as perfect as he seems…

    You can find Charlotte online on Twitter and Instagram and her website

    You can buy ‘Unfollow Me’ from Amazon and is available from good bookshops today.

John Marrs

John MarrsJohn Marrs is an author and former journalist based in London and Northamptonshire. After spending his career interviewing celebrities from the worlds of television, film and music for numerous national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time author. ‘The Minders’ is his latest book.

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing
    My name is John Marrs and I’m fortunate to be able to write for two publishers. For Thomas & Mercer, I write psychological thrillers and for Penguin’s Ebury, I write psychological thrillers with a futuristic twist. Before giving it up three years ago to write full-time, I used to be a celebrity journalist and wrote for publications including ‘OK Magazine’, ‘The Guardian’s Guide’, ‘Total Film’, ‘Q’ and ’S’ Magazine. Books started as a bit of fun – a challenge to myself – and it ended up becoming an entirely new career.
  2. Tell us about your new book called ‘The Minders’.
    The premise is simple – if you could know every secret our country has ever kept – good and bad – but can’t tell a single soul, would you want to know? In The Minders, five ordinary people give up their lives for five years to take part in an experimental Government programme to store all our top secret data inside them. But as they start their lives afresh under new identities, someone is hunting them down and picking them off one by one.
  3. Congratulations on the exciting news of ‘The One’ being adapted for Netflix. Are you involved with the adaption of the book or have you passed the reins onto someone else?
    Thank you! But no, I’ve had nothing to do with the adaptation. It is an eight-part series and I think it will be very different to the book, but I’ve not read the scripts or storylines. I can’t wait to see what they have done with it. For me, once my book is complete, I move on to the next one and I’ll never read it again. With the TV version, it is now up to someone else to take my story and turn it into their vision. I did get to go on set and watch it being filmed in January which was a great and very surreal experience.
  4. Your books have been compared to the Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’, as they are quite futuristic. Where do you get your ideas from?
    They can come from anywhere. ‘When You Disappeared’ came from an article I read in The Guardian, ‘The Good Samaritan’ came from a conversation with a friend who worked as a phone line operator for vulnerable people. I thought of ‘The One’ on an escalator in London’s Underground and a book I’ll be working on soon came to me in a dream. I woke myself up and had to dictate it into my phone before I forgot it.
  5. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I’ve got to know a few since I’ve been writing, so I’d start with Cara Hunter, Claire Allen, Darren O’Sullivan, Louise Beech and Tom Rob Smith. Then I’d send out invitations to Peter Swanson, Gillian Flynn and John Boyne. They could rewrite the phone directory and I’d read it.
  6. Who’s your favourite villain or hero?
    Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’. What a book, what a character.
  7. The Minders

  8. Can you tell me about your planning process from planning to first draft?
    I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, although I am trying to change that. My last book, The Minders, was the first I have properly planned and I quite enjoyed the process. For me, the first draft is all about getting those words and plotlines out of my head and onto the screen. It’s the second draft when the work really begins – trying to make it into something readable for someone other than myself. By the third draft, it’s really starting to take shape, by draft number four, I gain confidence in it. But by drafts five and six, I am sick to death of it and never want to read it again! Every year my writing process changes. I used to write for 90 minutes on the train to London in the morning, then for an hour at lunch time, and a further 90 minutes on the journey home. In fact, my first five books were written on trains. Then I gave up journalism in 2018 and started writing from home full-time. But since our son was born a year ago, it’s now a case of making the most of the rare free time I have. When I’m writing, it’s always in silence. I can’t do background music. I always print the book out to do my edits, makes notes in coloured pens I buy from a shop called Muji and when I make the on-screen corrections, that’s when I’ll listen to playlists on Apple Music.
  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
    “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.”JRR Tolkein was nothing if not straight to the point.
  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts has been sitting on my bookshelf for a decade and I’ve still yet to read it. I’m intimidated by its 900+ pages. Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ would be my second choice because after a lull of a decade in the 1990s, that book got me back into reading again. And my last choice would be John Boyne’s ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’, a novel I loved so much that I’d only read a chapter at a time as I didn’t want it to end.
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    I’m still way too early in my journey to ever think I could offer anybody advice of my own! I can share these tips though – I was told to read out loud whatever I write when I start the editing process – and it has really helped me with pacing, grammatical errors and sentence structure. I’ve also learned that research is key – if you want to write a commercially successful book, then pick a genre that people want to read. You might know everything there is to know about Himalayan snowdrops, but it doesn’t mean other people want to read a book about them. And just get on with it – so many writers waste time procrastinating or trying to come up with the perfect plot before they write. Sometimes you just need to put pen to paper and see where it takes you.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    I don’t need anything other than a computer. Writing my first few books on trains taught me that I need nothing but a laptop. And that gives me the ability to write wherever I like – a pub, a restaurant, a garden or in bed.
  13. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m in the process of taking a year out, so I won’t be publishing anything new until probably 2022. It’s nice not having a deadline for once. It means I can write for pleasure again and at my own pace.

    Follow John Marrs on Twitter and follow his website

You can buy ‘The Minders’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Hayley Nolan Writers’ Tips

Hayley NolanHayley Nolan is the writer/producer and presenter of hit iTunes podcast series The History Review and its spin-off vlog series, which has gained more than one million views in its first 5 months. She is a graduate of London’s prestigious Royal Court Young Writer’s Programme, has trained in screenwriting at RADA and creative writing at Cambridge University, and has trained in screenwriting at RADA. An Anne Boleyn expert, her research has seen her working with the French and UK governments, partnering with some of the UK’s most respected historical organisations, and has garnered her the support of respected historians. ‘Anne Bolyeyn – 500 Years of Lies’ is her latest book.

Today, Hayley offers advice to budding writers.

There is so much that goes into getting a book published these days from whether there will be demand for it, how is your book different from others in the genre, could an agent sell it to publishers, will all departments of the publishing house see your book as a viable investment in the infamous ‘acquisition’ meetings? Frustratingly all this comes into play, and there are plenty of things you can do as an author to make sure the book you are pitching will appeal…HOWEVER when it comes down to it, it’s all about the writing. You can have an amazing concept but if the writing doesn’t live up to expectations then it won’t happen. So this needs to be your focus and priority. With writing it’s all about honesty…and editing!

Read more about Hayley and her writing journey

Bella Osborne Writer’s Tip

Bella Osborne

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. In 2016, her debut novel,’It Started At Sunset Cottage’, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award. Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Her novels are often serialised in four parts ahead of the full book publication. She lives in The Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).

Today Bella is sharing her writing tips for aspiring authors.

I think specifics will be personal to each writer but I believe all writers can benefit by surrounding themselves with like minded people. Only other writers know what it’s like and they are an incredibly supportive bunch. So my advice is to look up organisations for your genre and local groups and seek out your tribe..

Read more about Bella and her writing journey