Discoveries, On Writing

Claire Fuller: 11 essential tips for new writers

Claire Fuller’s marvellous novel Unsettled Ground was shortlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction and is out now in paperback. As the deadline for our new writer’s programme Discoveries is this Monday, we caught up with Claire to ask about her own writing journey and asked her for some words of wisdom for new writers.

It was only a little over ten years ago that I was an ‘unpublished emerging writer’ – as you might well be if you’re submitting the beginning of your novel to the Discoveries new writer’s programme. I was wading through the muddy landscape of what became my first book, Our Endless Numbered Days, battling against the current and trying to swim my way downstream. Okay, enough of the watery metaphors. What I’m trying to say is that every published writer, including those you love and admire, started somewhere – probably in a place very similar to where you are now. Some of them, like me, will have had day jobs and caring duties that used up most of their day until they managed to carve out more time. I worked in marketing, and my children were still at home when I wrote that first novel, until I gave up the ‘day job’ at 49 and became a full-time writer. It was hard. Writing is still hard.

Here are few tips to keep you going:

  • Tell yourself you’re a writer. You’re writing, so you are a writer.
  • Keep going. Right through that saggy middle and out the other side. Only by having some words on the page can you edit them and make them better.
  • You can become a writer at any age. If you’re older, see that as a positive – you have more life experience to bring to your writing.
  • Find writing time wherever you can. Write for ten minutes if that’s all the time you have. If you don’t have any time, think about your novel and what you’re going to write when you do have time.
  • Find a peer group. Meeting and chatting with other writers who are at the same point as you is really important. You can talk through ideas, critique each other’s writing, commiserate with each other when things don’t work out and celebrate when they do.
  • Read. See what other writers are doing. If you like their books, read them closely to find out how they did it.
  • See this as a potential new career. Treat your application to the Discoveries programme and any other writing submission, as though you’re applying for a job. Be professional, friendly, enthusiastic but not egotistical.
  • Play. In contrast to the above point, muck about, have fun, experiment with your writing. You don’t have to show it to anyone. And great art often comes from making a mess.
  • Be curious. Ask people about themselves and their stories, write notes, be nosey. Go to as many places as you can and observe. Even if it’s the local park.
  • Read your work aloud. To yourself. To your cat. To your friend or partner. Get them to read it to you (let me know if this works with your cat). Read your writing as though you’re on a stage in front of five hundred people. I promise that you’ll find things you want to change.
  • Tell yourself you’re a writer. You’re writing, so you’re a writer.

If you haven’t read Claire’s incredible Women’s Prize shortlisted novel Unsettled Ground yet, make sure you discover it in paperback now >

Feeling inspired by these pearls of wisdom? Find out more about how to enter Discoveries here >

The Women's Prize Podcast


Tune into host Zawe Ashton and a host of inspiring guests on our weekly podcast full of book recommendations.