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Top Tips for Writers by Mia Gallagher

Article by Mia Gallagher ©.
Posted in Resources ().
  1. Write when you can. Sometimes just turning up at the desk/laptop is all you need to kickstart something.
  2. If you can’t write, don’t stress or do a number on yourself. Life is too short. But do ask yourself: Why? Is it that you can’t write (no energy, tired, ill, stressed about a life issue, just finished a big project/big publicity trail) or that you don’t want to? If it’s that you don’t want to, try unpacking this. Ask: What’s stopping me? Why don’t I want to write? What am I afraid of?
  3. Set realistic goals that suit who you are, where you’re at professionally as a writer, and what stage of a project/process you’re in. You’re a human and every human has a different need around work/play/family/health balance. Professionally too, all writers are different: some need to honour deadlines, usually if other people’s money is at stake, while others don’t. And all writers approach process differently, sometimes even varying their approach from project to project. For example, I tend to write a lot, and easily, at the beginning of a project. At the very end I work very intensely (12-14 hrs/day, 7 days/week). In between I can find it harder to be productive. That’s when I often tell myself to turn up and just do it—even if it’s only an hour a day, 3 days a week.
  4. If you’re getting stressed or stuck, stop and look at your writing goals. Are they realistic? Are they too ambitious for your life, writing career or the current stage of your current project? If so, drop your goal downwards. There’s no shame in being a tortoise sometimes.
  5. Know when you’re musing, incubating or sitting with material—and cut yourself slack at these times. These processes are really valuable. They help work get better, though they may not necessarily feel like ‘lots of writing’.
  6. Be ambitious about your creative intentions. Allow them to be tested rigorously and constructively, through feedback from people who know more than you and who you respect. If it takes you longer to make something you can stand over, so what? There’s already more than enough not-great material out there in the world. If you can, make what you’re doing count.
  7. Sometimes you just have to write the f**king thing. You might know when/if you’re at that stage. If you’re not sure, talk to other (more experienced) writers. They’ll see it quicker than you.
  8. Try not to compare your writing career, productivity, achievements, public profile, tour dates, reviews, prize/grant history or other markers of success with those of other writers. That way madness lies. When you find yourself going there—you will, we’re all human—see if you can stop. If you can’t stop, just observe, see what happens. Maybe it’ll be easier next time. Or maybe you’ll be able to use the madness to tap into something interesting to write.
  9. Set yourself a few core goals each year. Try to make the majority of them in your power to achieve: e.g., if I say my goal is to get a rough first draft of my next book done, that’s in my gift. If I say I want to win the Booker, that’s not—and that way, too, madness lies.
  10. Never accept, unquestioningly, any advice you get from any other writer.

(c) Mia Gallagher

About Shift:

Prowling the streets, bedrooms, parks and schoolyards of a grubby uncertain city, where madness lurks just under the skin, men, women and those in-between enter an unsettling dance of encounters. There s Maisie, perfect on the inside and out, a right PrimcessTM but what s it going to take to get a hard-copy invitation to her party? There s the angry-deep-inside man, who gets more than he bargained for when he drinks too much at a party, insulting a mysterious guest. There s those three lads, up from the sticks to study marketing in Belfield, who can t help listening to the noises in their creaky Georgian house: a slamming door, a washing machine and geisha Susie downstairs, playing Nights in White Satin to her snake. And the nixer driving a removals van with Christo, who likes dressing up on days he isn t feeling too good. Time passes. Roads get built, cars get faster, bubbles bust. But some things endure. The bitter violence of betrayal. Love, in all its foolish sweetness. The hurt and sometimes healing of loss. A magnificent achievement by one of Ireland s greatest authors.

Order your copy online here.


Mia Gallagher was born in Dublin, where she lives and works. Her novels are HellFire (Penguin, 2006), awarded the Irish Tatler Literature Award 2007, and Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland (New Island, 2016), longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Award 2016, and published in the UK by Head of Zeus in 2018. Mia has received several Literature Bursaries from the Arts Council of Ireland and has enjoyed the role of writer-in-residence in many different environments. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared widely in journals and anthologies. Mia has also written for the stage and worked as an actor. Shift is her first short-story collection.