Evie Wyld is an award-winning writer of three novels and a graphic novel. She was born in London and brought up on both her grandparents’ sugar cane farm in New South Wales, Australia, as well as in Peckham, south London, where she now runs an independent bookshop.
Her work is often experimental with her debut novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice (winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Betty Trask Award) alternating between two narratives, while her second novel, All the Birds Singing (winner of the Miles Franklin Award amongst others) is a story told in reverse. Her most recent novel, The Bass Rock, explores the lives of three women living in different centuries and the ways male violence impacts their lives.
Before her writing class with The Novelry, we took the opportunity to ask Evie about her journey to becoming a writer as well as her top writing tips.
How did you start writing?
I started writing as a distraction from very boring jobs – it was extended daydreaming really. And then I did the Creative Writing MA at Goldsmiths, but with no ambition to publish – I just wanted to become more articulate on paper in the hopes of getting a better job.
My aim was always to get into a job where I didn’t have to work as a team or go to meetings; I thought being a proofreader would be good for that.
What drove you to make the leap to becoming a writer?
At Goldsmiths I had a short story about an Australian girl chopping off her thumb published in their online journal, after which a literary agent contacted me. She asked if I’d considered writing a novel. I lied and said yes, and then once the MA was over, I gave it a go.
I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it, but after four years of writing and redrafting and working with my agent, I ended up writing one after all.
Did you find it easy to get a publishing deal? What was that experience like?
There were a few publishers interested and it was ultimately bought by Jonathan Cape.
I’ve had a different editor for every novel, but I’ve been very lucky that they have all been excellent, and have asked the most useful questions of my books.
How do you deal with the publicity?
You had a lot of acclaim for your debut novel. Sometimes that can be both validating and daunting. How were you able to keep on writing?
My first book, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won a couple of prizes which meant I was able to write the next book, and the prizes from that one helped me write the one after that. The timing was just right.
Should you share work in progress?
Often writers are itching to show or discuss their first drafts with friends and family. What would you advise?
Don’t talk too much about it. Until it’s written, nothing is set in stone, but once you tell another person about your plans, it starts to solidify and this is not always a good thing.
Remember that writing is a process of thinking on the page – you don’t need to have figured it out before you get writing. Write, and what you are interested in will rise to the surface.
Evie Wyld’s Top 5 Writing Tips
- Read widely and pay attention to how other writers get out of difficulty – if you’re struggling to get place or character down efficiently, look at how an author you admire does it. Count how many words they do it in, write down the sentences that do the heavy lifting, and then use those sentences as something to hold on to while you write your own. The chances are these lines will end up being changed or deleted by the final draft, but more often than not it can get the difficult technical work out of the way so you can get on with getting to know your place and your person.
- Be ready to execute large portions of work that you’ve put an awful lot of time into. It’s the most wonderful feeling when you can’t make something work and you’ve been writing hard about it and then you just delete the whole scene/character/monologue. There are many beautiful dead ends involved in writing a novel.
- Beware of words and phrases that are unnecessary and deadening – ‘She noticed’ or ‘She looked’ are both implicit in what you describe. Worst of all ‘slightly’, ‘a bit’, ‘quite’; words that soften what you are trying to say. Remember the gaps are as important as the words. No one wants to be spoon-fed; let the reader bring themselves to your story.
- Use liminal spaces as often as you think of them. Some of the work I’m most proud of happened in very unromantic places – sometimes a busy chain café in a train station is exactly what you need, and the beautiful quiet desk at home just makes you want to do your laundry.
- Don’t hurry. There is no benefit to ‘getting your work out there’ if it is not the best you can do. Don’t worry about things that are happening in the world that you feel you really ought to respond to. Your response is still valid three years from now, it will be more considered, it will take time and growth into account.
Evie Wyld is the author of After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, All the Birds Singing and The Bass Rock. She has a BA from Bath Spa University in Creative Writing, an MA in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, and has been listed by the Daily Telegraph as one of the 20 best British authors under the age of 40 and the Best of Young British Novelists by Granta.
- Members of The Novelry can enjoy Evie’s writing class in the Catch Up TV Area.
- If you’d like to finish the book of your dreams, start writing today with Evie Wyld as your writing coach for the creative writing courses where you get to choose the best writing coach for your story.