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Sarah Waters (won the award in 2000 for Affinity; 2015 judge) 

  1. While you’re writing, read like mad – but read analytically. You will never be able to put a book together without an understanding of how other books work. I suspect that this is more a matter of instinct than anything else – but you can nurture that instinct by looking at other texts and thinking, ‘What’s successful here? What’s failing? And why?’
  1. Don’t write for the market. Clue yourself up about what’s out there and what sells – and then forget it. The best novels are written with passion, not calculation. Your writing has to come from your heart, not from your desire to the Next Big Thing.
  1. When you submit to an agent, be professional about it. Do your research: there’s a lot of advice available online, for example, about writing synopses and covering letters. Approach agents whose lists are a good match with your work. And don’t be squeamish or apologetic! Agents need books to survive, as do publishers. There is no reason why they shouldn’t want yours.

Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature and has been an associate lecturer with the Open University. She has written six novels: Tipping the Velvet (1998), which won the Betty Trask Award; Affinity (1999), which won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday / John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; Fingersmith (2002), which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize, and won the South Bank Show Award for Literature and the CWA Historical Dagger; The Night Watch (2006), which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize; The Little Stranger (2009), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the South Bank Show Literature Award; and The Paying Guests (2014), which was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Young Writer Award @YoungWriterYear

Follow us on twitter. The Young Writer of the Year Award is a prize of £10,000 for a writer under 35.

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