Louise Candlish

Posted on May 22, 2009
Louise CandlishLouise is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers Since I Don’t Have You and The Second Husband. She writes emotional dramas in which, Louise says, her characters ‘make controversial (and often unwise) decisions about their lives’. In Louise’s new book, Before We Say Goodbye, a wife and mother deserts her family in order to revive her love for a man she has not seen in twenty years. Louise lives in London with her partner and daughter. Here, Louise shares her top 5 writing tips and essential reads.

Louise’s top 5 writing tips

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1.  Make sure you have a strong central idea. This should be something that can be expressed in a short sentence – I can’t stress this strongly enough. When I was judging a romantic comedy writing competition a few years ago, this was the number one weakness among the entries. There were lots of likeable characters, funny situations, unexpected happenings, but when I tried to ‘pitch’ it as a single idea to the other judges I’d find myself struggling to say exactly what that single idea was. It may sound a little hard-nosed, but even the most beautifully written manuscript will be passed over if there is not that hook to get the attention of publishers, booksellers and, most importantly, readers in the first place.

2.  Have no illusions. Writing a whole book is hard work. When people start their first novel, there’s often the preconception that writing is going to be as effortless as speaking. You can tell a good story to your friends in a bar, so how hard can it be just to write it down? The reality is that this is long, lonely work, so be realistic and expect the motivational highs and lows that go with any project that takes (at least) a year to complete!

3.  Cut, don’t pad. Sometimes aspiring novelists tell me that they’ve got the bones of their story sorted out but they just need to ‘pad it out’ a bit. I think that’s a bad sign. If your story is bursting with life and emotion and drama then the problem, if any, should be containing it. You shouldn’t be padding out anything. Readers can spot it at 50 paces, too.

4. Print it out like a book. When I’m feeling a bit stuck, I print out what I’ve got on A4 paper but two pages per sheet. It makes it look more like a real book and somehow it helps me get a sense of whether the story is working or not. Do I want to turn the page? If I do, I think other people will too.

5.  Eat chocolate. A 100g bar of Green & Black’s Butterscotch is probably the best writer’s companion I’ve found to date.

Find out more about Louise at her website www.louisecandlish.co.uk

Louise’s Essential Reads

(click on image to buy the book)

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

This is the ultimate coming-of-age novel, with one of literature’s most winning heroines, Sally Jay Gorce.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

This is my favourite novel; the perfect coming together of structure, character and language.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

I would say this is probably the greatest crime novel of the 20th century. Tom Ripley is the most disturbing of mixes: clever, amoral and weirdly sympathetic.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

A beautiful and melancholic story that arouses the full range of emotions – including sheer admiration for the complexity of the book’s structure.

A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe

A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe

A work of genius (and some scale!), this includes the best prison scenes I’ve ever read. Dickens for the 1990s.


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