How to be a good writer. Five tips from somebody who's still trying to work it out.

The good folks at Carina UK have asked me to come up with a few tips to help aspiring writers. Hell, I thought, that should be easy. I switched on the Mac, pulled up a Word page, rested my fingers on the keyboard and...nothing. 

Nada, Zilch. Zero. A big, fat round zero. The only thing I could see on the page were little black spots of dust where I had forgotten to clean my screen.

Thirty minutes of procrastination later; after making a cup tea, checking my emails, doing the washing up, checking emails again, posting on twitter, re-posting on twitter, and realising that I desperately needed a hair cut and a bacon sandwich, I sat own once again and wrote.

1. Write.

The most important tip for any writer is to keep writing. Write on those days when the words tumble over themselves in confusion. Write on those times when Grammar is a place in Essex. Write on the days when you feel like banging your head against the Rock of Gibraltar. Write in the wee small hours when your child is snoring in the bed next to you. Write on the nights when you husband/wife/partner/dog is snoring in the bed next you. Write when the world is about to end. Write when the world is about to begin. Write when you are having sex. Write more when you're not having sex.

You get the message. Just write. And don't forget to punctuate. It helps.

2. Read.

When you're not writing, read. How can you be writer without reading?  Read the classics. Read the classifieds. Read the ads. Read the posters. Read the latest book of the week. Read the 1871 book of the year  (it was Middlemarch by George Eliot, well worth reading). Read the back of cornflake packets ( I may have written it. I know more that anybody should know about fibre). Read when you are having sex. Read more when you are not having sex.

You get the message. Just read. And don't forget to breathe. It helps.

3. Know your genre.

Are you writing crime? Or romance? Is it a poisoning set in a chocolate box village? Or a fast paced thriller set in a slow-moving train? Is it a mystery set in outer space. Or a YA set in Outer Mongolia? Does the hero keep his boots on or does the heroine have her bodice ripped off? Know the genre and then break the rules. Have a young girl as your heroine in a fight to the death (The Hunger Games) Romance a vampire.(Twilight) Make a villain, a hero (Wolf Hall). But to break the rules, you have to know them.

Know your genre. Even if you're writing the sequel to 50 Shades of Grey. Especially, if you re writing the sequel to 50 Shades of Grey.

4. Know the craft.

If you've spent time on the first three, use it well. Examine how Dan Brown keeps the pace going. See how Jeffery Deaver uses time to create tension. Research how Bernard Cornwall marshals historical facts to create historical stories. Watch how Muriel Spark blocks her novels (blocking is moving characters in a scene). See how Stephen King builds the beats in the opening of Mr Mercedes - brilliant work from a writer at the top of his profession.  There a pages of great writers out there, who have done it all before and done it well.

Learn from them. And never stop learning.

5. Have fun.

Writing is the best thing you can do with your clothes on. Open you mind. Use your imagination. Create an amazing world for the reader. Create an different world for yourself. Fall in love with your characters. Fall out of love with your characters. Kill them off. And resurrect them. But whatever you write, have fun doing it. Because the reader can sense when you are not. Haven't we all read a book and felt the writer had just been going through the motions? Don't let that happen. Writing is too much fun to do it badly. And even better, Carina UK will pay you for doing it.

So what's stopping you? Pick up your pen and start today. You have nothing to lose but your clothes.