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Andrew Cowan's Writing Tips and Best Books by Young Authors

Posted on 4th November 2015 by Andrew Cowan
The Young Writer of the Year Award shortlist is announced on Sunday and in the run up, we have asked previous years' winners to share some writing tips and favourite texts by young authors.

Andrew Cowan won the award in 1995 for Pig.

Andrew's Writing Tips

1. There’s no point in advising you to read because you wouldn’t be a writer unless you were already a reader, would you?  Just don’t go reading the latest prizewinners and bestsellers in the hope of discovering what publishers are looking for.  By the time your book is written, they’ll be looking for something else. 

2. Expect it to be hard.  Expect the achievement to fall short of the ambition, but stay true to your ambition: be dogged, keep going.  

3. Join a reputable MA programme.  You’ll not only find a community of readers - which is, as Bernard Malamud said, a miraculous thing - but access to agents and publishers, who are actively looking to recruit new writers from the best courses.


Andrew's Best Books Written by Young Authors

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - This was published in 1847, when Bronte was just 29.  In its intensity, it’s a young person’s book, though technically more sophisticated than it seems to get credit for.  She died the following year, so will remain forever a ‘young writer’.

2. A Room with a View by EM Forster - This was Forster’s third novel, and begun when he was just 21.  It was published in 1908, when he was 29 - my age when I read it.   I was beginning to despair of ever finishing Pig, and though it’s not his best book it made me feel I was already too old. 

3. Dubliners by James Joyce - Astonishingly, Joyce submitted this to 15 publishers before it finally appeared in 1914.  More astonishingly, he first submitted it in 1905, when he was just 23 years old.  It’s a masterpiece, written when he was barely out of adolescence. 

4. Dusty Answer by Rosamund Lehmann - Lehmann was just 26 when this was published in 1927.  I read it on holiday this summer. The creative writing teacher in me wanted to help her edit it, but if one of my students were ever to show me a first novel this absorbing, this brilliant, I hope I’d have the sense to leave well alone.  

5. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan - This was McEwan’s third book, published in 1978, when he was 30.  It followed two collections of short stories, and collectively it was these three books that made me want to be a writer.  They seemed to describe a world I also inhabited, though I underestimated how hard it would be to write this well. 


Andrew Cowan was born in Corby and educated at Beanfield Comprehensive and the University of East Anglia, where he was taught by Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter.  His first novel Pig (1994) won five literary awards, including The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.  This was followed by Common Ground (1996), Crustaceans (2000), What I Know (2005) and Worthless Men (2013).  His creative writing guidebook, The Art of Writing Fiction, was published in 2011, and he has just completed his sixth novel.  He is the Director of the Creative Writing programme at UEA.



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