Dinaw Mengestu is an Ethiopian-American novelist and writer who’s won awards and accolades including the Guardian First Book Award.

Here are his tips for writing fiction.

  1. Be generous to your characters: kill them, save them, break their hearts and then heal them. Stuff them with life … and once they are bursting at the seams, strip them bare… Now put them back together, … except now leave enough room for the reader to squeeze their own heart and imagination inside. 
  2. Believe that a good writing day can be one passed entirely in silence, with hours spent staring at a blank screen, or glaring at a single word or paragraph, knowing there is nothing you can add or change at that particular moment. Even if not a single word is written, … you’ve affirmed the simple fact that you care and have the patience to endure. 
  3. Don’t think about how your characters sound, but how they see. Watch the world through their eyes. 
  4. The older I get, the fuller and more complex my life becomes with family, friends, students, and above all children. I’ve learned now not to be precious about the conditions I work in. I’ve learned not to wait for the total silence, which on the vast majority of days, will never, ever come… Take being tired and emotionally exhausted as an excuse to take excessive liberties with language, with your imagination. 
  5. And in case it’s possible to forget—remember the world does not need your book. The world will go on just fine without it… so write out of necessity, out of personal privation, because you, and perhaps only you, needs to read those words.

Read more about Dinaw’s tips here.