Annabelle Pitcher Advice for Novelists

The lovely staff at Sheffield Hallam University welcome Hive young writers to appropriate writing masterclasses at the uni, and what could be more appropriate than a talk by young adult novelist, Annabel Pitcher!?

Annabel’s first novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantel Piece, (which she wrote while on her honeymoon – it was an extended one!), bagged her a two book deal. It’s been translated into over twenty languages and the film rights have recently been sold.

Annabel is now on her 5th novel, and with that comes a huge amount of wisdom that she was generous enough to share in very candid detail, from the letter that got her her agent, to the lies she felt she had to tell to move forward as a writer.  SHU degree students and 5 slightly late and flustered Rotherham and Sheffield young writers were riveted by her story and advice.

“I tried to copy other writers and it was never right but this felt like my thing. I didn’t worry about if it was sellable, or there was a gap in the market for it, or if it was the right thing to be writing. I just felt I had to tell this story.”

Advice from Annabel:

  • There is no right way to write – trust your own process
  • Only occasionally you’ll experience flow – the rest of the time it will feel like hard work
  • Hard doesn’t mean wrong or poor writing. Getting stuck, rethinking and rewriting is part of the process
  • Know when to refill the creative well. Don’t feel guilty for stepping away for a few hours or days
  • See the whole and not the hole – think twice when you’re tempted to delete stuff
  • Remember, writing is the reward!
    More writing advice from Annabel here

Young writer thoughts on the talk:

Maya: I loved that it was very honest. I was interested in how she doesn’t plan in a conventional way. What she does is thematic planning (which feels a lot more creative).

Jade: I really liked what she was saying about getting a character’s voice to lead rather than coming up with a plot, and that being more important, the character being in the story and making decisions inside it.

Molly: I liked that she mentioned it’s really hard work to write a book and not always as much flow as people think it is. But she sees writing as a reward and that’s a great way of looking at it.

Lauren: I really like how horrible she made writing seem! It was more realistic because sometimes we think it’s going to be all perfect and it’s the worst, and it was a reminder of that, but that it’s worth it. She really broke down some barriers and ideas about authors being perfect and even though she was talking about difficulties, it made it feel very possible to write a book.

Mia: I loved how honest she was, and about how you’d think an author had to be really organised and she was completely different and her writing was just… all in the moment.

Young writer, Lauren Hollingsworth will be interviewing Annabel soon for her Arts Award in Writing. If you’re a young writer with a question for Annabel, drop us a line by 1st March and we’ll see if we can squeeze it in!

Big thank you to Harriet Tarlo & colleagues in the English department at Sheffield Hallam University who continue to support Hive and young writers in the region.