Advice for Writers from Irish Authors

by @AnnieDaylon

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With Irish scribes advising, sure the writers all take wing…

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, in tribute to my Irish ancestry, I offer the following tidbits of advice for writers from well-known Irish authors:




Frank McCourt: author of Angela’s Ashes;  ‘Tis; Teacher Man


Maeve Binchy: author of Tara Road; The Glass Lake; Light a Penny Candle; Circle of Friends; Nights of Rain and Stars

  • “You’re much more believable if you talk in your own voice…  I don’t say I was proceeding down a thoroughfare, I say I walked down the road.  I don’t say I passed a hallowed institute of learning, I say I passed a school.”
    (In Memory Of Maeve Binchy: Her Writing Secrets  by Jonathan Gunson)


Colm Tóibín: author of Brooklyn; The Master; The Testament of Mary; The Blackwater Lightship; The Empty Family

  • “Finish everything you start. Often, you don’t know where you’re going for a while; then halfway through, something comes and you know. If you abandon things, you never find that out.”
    (Colm Tóibín, Novelist – Portrait of the Artist by Laura Garnett, The Guardian, Feb, 2013)

Tana Frenchauthor of In the Woods; Broken Harbor; Faithful Place; The Likeness

  • ” It’s OK to screw up. For me, this was the big revelation when I was writing my first book, In the Woods: I could get it wrong as many times as I needed to. I was coming from theatre, where you need to get it right every night, because this audience will probably never see the show again; it took me a while to realise that, until the book goes into print, it’s still rehearsal, where you can try whatever you need to try. If you rewrite a paragraph fifty times and forty-nine of them are terrible, that’s fine; you only need to get it right once.”
    5 Writing Tips from Tana French, Publishers Weekly, 2012


Frank Delaney: author of Ireland (A Novel); Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show; Tipperary; The Matchmaker of Kenmare

  • “Give similar rhythms to the opening and closing paragraphs of your entire piece. It’ll deliver an unconscious sense of completeness.”
    ( Frank Delaney’s Writing Tips,  #283)


Emma Donoghue:  author of Room; Frog Music; The Sealed Letter; Landing; Life Mask

  • “Write a lot, write with passion. Don’t give up the day job till you have reason to believe you can live off your writing; plenty of great books have been written at weekends.  Try giving up TV, or getting up earlier; if you want it enough you’ll find the time to write.”
    (FAQ Emma Donaghue)


Roddy Doyle: author of The Commitments; Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha; The Barrytown Trilogy; The Guts

  • “Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.”
    (Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, The Guardian, Feb, 2010)

Sebastian Barry: author of A Long, Long Way; The Secret Scripture; On Canaan’s Side

  • “I do believe writing for a writer is as natural as birdsong to a robin. I do believe you can ferry back a lost heart and soul in the small boat of a novel or a play. That plays and novels are a version of the afterlife, a more likely one maybe than that extravagant notion of heaven we were reared on. That true lives can nest in the actual syntax of language. Maybe this is daft, but it does the trick for me. I write because I can’t resist the sound of the engine of a book, the adventure of beginning, and the possible glimpses of new landscapes as one goes through. Not to mention the excitement of breaking a toe in the potholes.”
    (Interview With Writer Sebastian Barry by Marissa B. Toffoli)

Marian Keyes: author of Sushi for Beginners; Anybody Out There; Rachel’s Holiday; The Mystery of Mercy Close; Saved by Cake 


Can’t think of a better finish than that concise and precise bit of advice from Marian Keyes!  Do you Happy St. Patrick's Dayhave any snippets of advice that I can include in this list? Would love to hear from you….


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My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue


2 thoughts on “Advice for Writers from Irish Authors
  1. Love these snippets of wisdom. From Frank McCourt’s “sit and quiet yourself” to Tana French’s “it’s okay to screw up”, it’s just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you.

    • You are most welcome; glad you enjoyed this. I loved writing it; found inspiration at every turn. I think my favorite line here is from Sebastian Barry: “I do believe you can ferry back a lost heart and soul in the small boat of a novel or a play.” I have not yet read this author… soon will!
      Thanks for stopping by. Greatly appreciated.

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