Writing Tips from HarperCollins Canada Editors

Happy (almost) New Year, Savvy Readers!

If you’re like me and never fail to set an unrealistic New Year’s resolution, this post is for you!  I always tell myself “I’m going to write more this year,” and I end up staring at a blank notebook for 3 weeks before giving up.  To combat this writer’s block, I met with 5 editors from HarperCollins Canada to get some insider tips on writing.


1) Write to your voice, not the market.

There always seems to be a question floating around as to what the next trend is for children’s publishing, and for young-adult fiction in particular. The governing idea being that all you have to do is write to the market and you’ll be a bestselling author in no time. Would that it were that easy.

When starting a new project, ask yourself where your authorial voice can take you, rather than being concerned with the next big thing. What’s the one story that only you can tell? Young readers are particularly savvy to writing that feel inauthentic or otherwise shoehorned into a genre or a particular literary trope. Tell your own story—that’s the one we want to hear.

–Suzanne Sutherland, Children’s Editor.  On Twitter @sutherlandsuz



2) Advice for writers of fiction:

Always remember how absolutely crucial your opening page and following few pages are for the reader.  Readers get bored easily.  If you don’t engage them reasonably swiftly, they will fall away quickly.  Voice is critical to successful fiction.  It is the voice of the narrator with which we become caught up.  A compelling irresistible narrative voice is the thing to strive for.  How did Salinger do what he did?  Look at the first page of Catcher in the Rye.  Hard to resist Holden, like him or not.  So – engage us, make us want to read what you have written; take the reader by the lapels and say ‘read me!’  That is what I look for in fiction.  How to pull it off?  Well, writing is all about re-writing and re-writing and re-writing.  Getting it right.  Making it fresh.  Creating voice is mysterious and elusive, but when it happens it is sheer magic.

–Patrick Crean, Publisher and Editor, Patrick Crean Editions



3)  Persevere!

Writing is so rewarding but remember that it is hard work. No matter how effortless the best writing can seem on the page, rest assured that hours of crafting and re-crafting has gone into each sentence. It doesn’t matter if you are a new writer or someone who has published many books, it takes work, courage and perseverance. Stick with it!

–Jennifer Lambert, Editorial Director (Fiction).  On Twitter @Lambert_Jenn



4) Focus on your craft.

One of the simplest bits of advice I give to aspiring writers is to write the book (or the proposal for the book, in the case of much non-fiction) for themselves, not for the market. You can spend a lot of time trying to figure out holes in the market and try to publish the book that no one has yet written, or you can write your book the way you want to and focus on your craft. As with anything in life, if you follow your passion, it will show in your work. Others will instinctively react to your passion on the page, and if the book is meant for great commercial success, all the better.

–Jim Gifford, Editorial Director (Nonfiction).  On Twitter @JimGiffordEd


5) Nail down your title and subtitle—now!

With non-fiction, it’s hard to overstate the importance of having a compelling title and finding it early in the writing of your manuscript. Don’t wait till the last minute. Unfortunately, I’ve learned this the hard way. The best titles are catchy, clear and make a promise. The promise, or “what-is-in-it-for-me,” of a book title helps your book stand out in the media, helps readers decide whether to pick up your book in a store or click-through on a link online and buy your book. A great title is more than just marketing though. Having a clear and concise title (and subtitle if necessary) is also invaluable while writing and editing your manuscript. It can help to keep you on track and is a constant reminder of what your book is about and what you’re trying to say. Coming up with the right title can be time-consuming and frustrating, but it’s worth the time and effort—especially if you can get it done sooner rather than later!

–Brad Wilson, Editorial Director (Collins).

I know I definitely needed these words of wisdom to kick-start my writing for the New Year.  Here’s to a wonderful, well-written 2017!


Follow me on Twitter @danielle10_06


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Canadian publishing professionals and bloggers. Looking for savvy readers to talk books with us!

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