John Boyne, author of the The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, spoke to TES this week.
Here are his tips for any would-be classroom authors who hope to follow in his internationally bestselling footsteps.
- Read thoughtfully
“People often say, ‘As long as you’re reading, it’s good.’ But what’s the point of reading rubbish? There are so many better things you could do in life than reading, say, Fifty Shades of Grey. Reading for its own sake is not worthwhile.”
- Write your own adventures for other people’s characters
“At a young age, I just stole characters from books I liked and made up stories for them: my own Treasure Island stories, or my own Bobby Brewster stories. It was all perfectly illegal, but I don’t think anybody would sue me for it.”
- Write alternative endings for books you like
- Just write a lot
- Avoid cliché like the plague
“Don’t use the first word that comes to mind. Try and think if there’s something less obvious you could use. Also look out for repetition of words or phrases.”
- Show your writing to other people
“No piece of writing is just meant to be put in a drawer. What’s it for, if it’s not for other people to read? Share it with people. It’s a waste of time if you write it and then shelve it.”
- Form a writing group
“With three or four other people, start a writing group. Give each other work to read. You need somebody to point out the deficiencies of your writing. Give equal time to each other’s work. Talk equally about what you like and what you don’t like. And, as a writer, you need to be able to hear that without having a tantrum.”
John Boyne’s latest book, The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, is published by Doubleday in hardback.
Read the full interview with John Boyne in tomorrow’s TES magazine, available in all good newsagents.