1. Fight that demon in the back of your head which says ‘I’m no good at this’ or ‘You’re writing rubbish today.’ Get something down, anything. You can always improve and edit it later. Once you start writing, things will usually start to flow.
2. Pretend to be a movie director. Imagine each scene in visual terms: where people are, what furniture is there, what is the weather/lighting like, what smells and sounds there are? Then bring on the cast, what they are doing, their moods, their conversations and reactions to each other. Even if you don’t include any of this, you need to know it as you write.
3. I usually try to write for my own reference a full physical description of each main character, as well as their mannerisms, likes and dislikes, and what they tend to wear on different occasions, etc. I search in newspapers, magazines and on the internet for people who look like them, and pin these up around my office. This helps you get to know them so you can write them more effectively. The characters usually take on a life of their own and turn out quite different from how you originally imagined them, but it can help in the early stages.
4. Try reading aloud what you have just written. It can work especially well for rooting out clunky dialogue (if you find yourself parodying the voices, stop!). Do this when there is no-one else in the house or they will think you have gone mad.
5. Write whenever you can, even for small stretches of time. Ignore that dusty room – who really cares?
Liz Trenow's book The Last Telegram is out now. Here's our review.