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On The Second Day of Christmas


On The Second Day of Christmas

And so, on we go to day two of my Twelve Days of Christmas Writing Advice, and today, another brilliant best-selling and prize-winning novelist just for you. Ladies and gents, I present, Kit de Waal.

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother and Caribbean father. Her debut novel, My Name is Leon, was published in 2016 and was shortlisted for the Costa Prize, and she has received many other awards for her writing including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize in 2014 and 2015. Her second novel, The Trick to Time, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize. This year saw the publication of her memoir, Without Warning & Only Sometimes: Scenes from an Unpredictable Childhood. Which I read and loved the minute it was published in August.

Before she became an author, Kit worked in criminal and family law for more than a decade and was a magistrate for many years. She still sits on adoption panels, and has written many training manuals on adoption and foster care for the judiciary.

Kit de Waal

Reading through her biography, it struck me how coming to writing later in your life, after many different types of life experience, should never be seen as a hindrance, in fact, it is very often a blessing. And for that reason, the theme of Kit’s writing advice today makes so much sense because you simply cannot find your voice until you have found yourself. So whether you are 19 or 99, it is never too late to start that journey with your writing craft — in fact, a later start may just make it better.

Anyway, enough from me, you’re here for Kit de Waal, and so here she is with her Christmas offering especially for you:

“The best writing advice I can give to anyone is to be yourself; to bring to your writing that thing that burns inside, that makes you ‘you’. That doesn’t mean that you just rattle off whatever you want like some unedited stream of consciousness with no consideration of craft or audience experience. It means you work hard, you learn what a good sentence is and then a good paragraph and then a good story and you work at it some more and then you edit until you can edit no more but you never, ever lose sight of — or perhaps rather lose the sound of — your voice and your uniqueness.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re writing science fiction, romance, thriller or whatever, there is still the thing inside that makes you different from every other human on the planet, that makes you different from your heroes, not lesser, just different.

“So do all the necessary work, yes, but don’t edit yourself out, don’t lose yourself, don’t try to be someone else.

“That goes for life as well as writing.”

• Kit de Waal’s memoir, Without Warning and Only Sometimes: Scenes from an Unpredictable Childhood is available to buy here.

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