Writing Real Life Based Fiction

Hi lovely writers, and I know from what a lot of you tell me, that you’re interested and inspired to write fiction based on your own life and experience.

Last weekend it was a great thrill to interview Julie Ma, who’s recently won the Richard and Judy Bestseller competition, here in the UK. For those of you who don’t know about this, Richard and Judy are hugely popular tv presenters, who have a book club and annual novel award.

Julie comes from my home town, and her brother and mine were great friends in school, so to have her guest at our local community litfest, was truly exciting.

Julie is warm, witty and generous in her writing advice. Her novel – originally called Takeaway, but now called Happy Families – manages to be entertaining, funny and moving. It is a tale of a Chinese family, their history and interactions in a new West Wales setting, told through the eyes of Amy, a wry and affectionate observer. 

Her advice in this video includes:

-if you want to tell a story informed by your life, take a speck of your story and spin it out

-notice things, observe and develop your eye for detail

-getting a line-a-day diary creates a useful noticing habit and stores potential ideas

-practise, practise, practise and audition different stories to be in your novel

-find online friends for feedback and pay for professional consultancy and courses, if you’re able and want to take your novel seriously

-try everything to get published: agents, self publishing, competitions. Julie’s novel came into being via a competition and publisher, rather than an agent.

-be patient and persistent

Julie’s now working on a new novel, while still running her excellent takeaway. Her book is terrific, uplifting and hopeful, and available here. Do hope you find her advice useful. Thanks to Julie for this interview, and can’t wait for the next one!