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Article  •  13 November 2023


Debut authors share their best tips for aspiring authors

The Fresh Voices of 2023 share their advice with fellow writers. Whether you’re aspiring to get your book published or looking for writing tips, these words of wisdom will help.

2023 was a great year for debuts!

From literary fiction to YA murder mystery, this year boasted a huge range of exciting reads and authors.

Throughout the year, we caught up with as many of the Fresh Voices as we could to get their perspectives on what it’s like being published for the first time.

Among the questions we asked them was one that will stand out to anyone who hopes to be published one day: ‘What advice would you give to an aspiring author?’

Read on to see their best tips. You’re sure to find something that inspires you on this list!

Tips for aspiring authors from the Fresh Voices of 2023

A Man and His Pride Luke Rutledge

I think you have to write from your own experiences. Even if you’re writing a fantasy and inventing an entire world, the story has to ring true and come from a grounded place. So try to have lots of experiences outside of writing, and keep writing for the love of it.

Don’t worry about what others are writing or how your writing might compare. Eventually, you will come to the story that only you can write, because it will be told in your voice and informed by your own experiences and thoughts.

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Amazing Grace Adams Fran Littlewood

My top hack is to always keep a ‘dump’ file up on the screen, next to the file you’re writing in. That way you can kill your darlings without actually deleting them.

It frees you up to edit with abandon, minus the fear that you’ll lose the best sentence you’ve ever written. I can guarantee, you’ll leave 99.9 per cent of the words/lines/paragraphs you consign to the dump in the dump!

And your book will be all the more beautiful for it.

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Anam: Shortlisted for the 2024 Miles Franklin Award André Dao

Become involved in the literary community. Like so, so many authors in this country, I had my start with Voiceworks, the national magazine for young writers.

I also worked with the Emerging Writers Festival, and I made friends with fellow authors – people whose opinions I trust and who I can talk to about reading and writing. Apart from the obvious benefits that that has on one’s practice, it’s also a great, abiding pleasure.

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But the Girl Jessica Zhan Mei Yu

Find people who will be kind enough to read you and smart enough to read you well. It’s hard to know how a manuscript is working until you find those people.

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Clytemnestra Costanza Casati

Write about what you know and love. That way, you’ll always end up with something unique and different from what everyone else is writing. I would also recommend reading a lot with a critical mind. You can’t be a writer if you aren’t an avid reader. 

Finally, I would recommend researching the publishing world before submitting your novel: what agents are looking for, which ones could be a good fit for your work, how to write a polished synopsis, and how to write the perfect elevator pitch. The submission process can be disheartening and exhausting, but it’s important to persevere and to remember that it only takes one ‘yes’ to change your life.

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Compulsion Kate Scott

Create a timeline of events for your manuscript, especially if you’re jumping around chronologies. (This was the first thing my editor Meredith Curnow suggested, which I wish had occurred to me years ago).

Also, write down your dreams if you’re into that kind of thing (something I’ve been doing on and off since I was 10, and regret every time it falls over).

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Eleanor Jones is Not a Murderer Amy Doak

Read – often and widely. The more you read, the more you understand what you like and why you like it.

Write – even when no one may ever read what you write. The only way to build your writing muscles is to keep putting words to paper. And, perhaps most importantly, get out of your own way. It’s really easy to compare your rough starts to someone else’s polished end and decide it’s all too hard before you even begin, but there’s a lot of truth in the saying ‘you can’t edit a blank page’. Just keep going, one word at a time, and one day you will find it’s done. 

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I Look Forward to Hearing from You Nick Bhasin

Don’t give up and don’t think about how you think your career should go.

Everyone wants to be successful right away when they’re young, and sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. And when it does, if it does, it won’t really matter that it took longer or came about in a way that you didn’t expect.

Also, a book takes a really long time to write, so you have to love the story and the process of writing it.

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Ink Blood Sister Scribe Emma Törzs

1. Try to write because you’re curious, not because you think you have the answers. 

2. Find first readers who understand what you’re trying to do and can meet you on those terms. 

3. Don’t be an asshole to anyone, ever – unless they really, truly deserve it.

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Lenny Marks Gets Away With Murder Kerryn Mayne

Get the words down – just start. 

Do it your way, but keep at it because it’s all about perseverance. The first draft is just that; don’t worry about nailing the first line or you’ll never get past the first page. And take the time for yourself – I was incredibly reluctant to schedule time to write because it seemed frivolous and I had a list of other things I could/should be doing and young children to care for. But you have to prioritise it, no one else will carve out the time for you.  

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On a Bright Hillside in Paradise Annette Higgs

Read widely. This is non-negotiable. Check out Alexander Chee's book of essays, How To Write An Autobiographical Novel and develop what he calls 'a wily, cagey heart'. Write, revise, and don't forget the final step: submit. Oh, and as everyone says, join or form a writing group. Mine is my mainstay.

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Our Hideous Progeny C.E. McGill

I feel like this one’s a huge cliché, but honestly – read!

I wholeheartedly believe that reading widely makes you a better writer. Learning to read critically, to pick apart a book and put it back together again and identify all the areas where it thrilled me or frustrated me as a reader, is really what taught me (and continues to teach me!) what makes stories tick.

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Perfect-ish Jessica Seaborn

1. Read widely, read a lot.

2. The first draft is meant to be terrible – re-writing and re-drafting is the fun part.

3. Use the Notes app on your phone when you hear great dialogue or stories around you.

4. If you’re financially able, consider signing up for writing courses or writing groups. I never would’ve gotten here if I didn’t apply for Curtis Brown Creative.

5. An idea for a novel can come from something about life that fascinates you. What do you find interesting? What is it about family or friendship or relationships that you often find yourself thinking about.

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Pineapple Street Jenny Jackson

Don’t worry about writing a book, worry about writing 2,000 words. Just break it into chunks and focus on moving section by section.

A book feels impossible, but 2,000 words can be done in a day or two.

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The Collected Regrets of Clover Mikki Brammer

Don't try to write the book that you think people will want, or that will sell a lot of copies. Write it because you have something to say, and you need to share it with the world. Readers are savvy and, I believe, can tell when they are being manipulated, but they can also tell when a writer is being genuine and is writing something because they can’t keep it inside their head any longer.

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The Curse of Saints Kate Dramis

Believe in your story.

YOU are the one that needs to believe in it most. If you don’t, an agent, publisher, readers, etc. can’t get behind it.

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The Fall Between Darcy Tindale

Become a member of the writers' centre in your state. Enter competitions, attend festivals and workshops, and build up experience and a body of published work. 

Read outside the genre of your writing, it will give you a fresh perspective. Write vignettes when not inspired, these detailed fragments and snippets will make your larger work pop. Believe me, you’ll paste them in.

Hang in there – the road is not always smooth, thicken your skin, grit your teeth, and try again. Oh, and read sometimes just for the pure joy of it – it will remind you to write for the pure pleasure of it.

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The Girls of Summer Katie Bishop

Everyone fails sometimes. The true test is having the courage to keep trying, even after failure, and being able to learn from your experience.

But I think that the absolute best piece of advice is to read as much as you can. It’s the only way to learn to write well. Even if you’re reading something that you think is terrible, it's still teaching you something about the kind of writer you want to be and the work you want to produce.

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The God of Good Looks Breanne Mc Ivor

I’d  advise aspiring authors to have a clear idea about their intentions. Sometimes, especially for a first book, you may want to cram every single good idea and every single issue you care about into that baby. Returning to the touchstone of your intentionality will help you shape a cohesive story and determine whether a particular scene or character really needs to be included. 

You also need to be able to differentiate between helpful and harmful suggestions. Is taking a suggestion going to make your book more of the book you wanted to write? Or is it removing something essential from your story?

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The Last Love Note Emma Grey

When I’m writing an early draft, I have a little band of 'alpha readers' who read it as I go. Their job is simply to encourage me to keep writing, without providing constructive criticism. They help me get through to the end of the first draft, and THEN I seek proper feedback.

There are so many opportunities for us to give up on ourselves when we’re writing a first draft – our writing can feel so precarious and disappointing at that stage. If we can persist through that messy stage, then we have something to work with.

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The Matchmaker Saman Shad

Persistence and consistency are not sexy words, but they are probably the best way I know to get published. Also, work in different mediums – whether it be digital, audio or even screen if you’re lucky. As long as you’re working on your craft you’re getting better as a writer.

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The Secrets of the Huon Wren Claire van Ryn

Establish a writing habit and find like-minded people to keep you accountable. I’m part of a writing group and this year we set ourselves a ridiculously achievable goal of writing for five minutes every day. Even on a bad day, you can write for five minutes. And on a good day, perhaps five minutes will turn into two hours!

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The Spider and Her Demons sydney khoo

Don't let fear stop you from writing. Don't let it stop you from starting, and don't let it stop you from finishing.

Your first draft is gonna suck. Let it suck. No one, not even your favourite author, writes the perfect draft the first time around. The most important part is finishing. You can make it good later.

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