For the past few months, bestselling novelist Joanne Harris has been giving free virtual lessons from the privacy of her cozy writing shed. Harris is best known for her novel Chocolat which was made into a movie in 2000, but she has over twenty-five books published in various genres. She has written thrillers, gothic horror, and myth-based fantasy.
She has been a full-time writer for over twenty years and she says that during that time she:
[has] Experienced many things. Changes in the industry; the rise of digital publishing; the changes in our reading habits and our interactions with readers. But what never seems to change is the number of people who want to write. Online or off, and in all genres, the passion for writing continues to spread, and with the new opportunities offered by the internet, writers now have many new ways in which to reach their audience.
One of these new ways is Twitter, and six years ago Harris started doing #TenTweets which is a series of ten tweets on writing. Neil Gaiman calls them “tiny islands of sensibleness and wisdom”.
Now Harris is compiling those tweets into a single volume called Ten Things About Writing. It is a collection of lists on writing, agents, publishing, and everything in between. It is published through September Publishing, a deliberate move on her part in order to help out a small press in this difficult time. While it doesn’t come out in hardback until December, it is currently available in e-book form. In the meantime, if you want to get a sneak peak of what the book has to offer, Harris has made a series of ten little videos on her YouTube page called “Ten Things About Writing” where she gives little lessons. Harris was a teacher before she became a full time writer and it shows in her calm demeanor and thoughtful, coherent advice. The videos are short, around fifteen minutes long each, and she gives little exercises at the end of each lesson. The lessons are as follows.
- Give Yourself Permission to Write
- Find Your Space
- Getting to Know Your Characters
- Getting Published
- For Those Days You Just Can’t
Two of the episodes I found the most helpful were “Find Your Space” and “Dialogue”. She often uses her own early work as examples, editing her dialogue and reminding everyone of the importance of reading the things you’ve written aloud and using fewer adverbs.
She also has little bonus videos about rejection, short stories, and agents and she adds more every week. There is almost nothing more comforting and inspiring than watching Harris lean towards you, cupping a steaming mug of tea and smiling gently, to pour advice and support into your ears. If you are a writer who needs some inspiration or are just starting out and need a little push, this is a great place to start.