Top Writing Tips for Young Authors from David Walliams

October 02, 2020

david walliams giving his writing tips to a young author at the writing awards

Explore Learning Writers’ Awards is here! So we thought we’d re-share 2018 judge David Walliams’ pearls of wisdom writing tips, just in case you needed a little nudge!

To get you going, here are David Walliams’ top ten writing tips for young authors… alongside a few more inspiring moments, just because to be fairly honest, we just couldn’t get enough!

There is nothing better as a writer than to encourage the next generation of writers. – David Walliams.


David’s tips for aspiring writers

Bestselling children’s author of books such as The Boy in the Dress and Billionaire Boy shares his writing tips

Hey David! What are your tips for young writers?

I have ten top tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid to start, just dive in.
  2. Be original. You can be influenced by authors you like, but don’t copy them!
  3. Write the story you want to read.
  4. Don’t forget sometimes a good idea is two ideas bashing against each other, e.g. Gangsta Granny
  5. When you have finished read your story aloud to someone, you should know immediately if there is something you can cut or something that doesn’t make sense.
  6. Remember a story can be like life, it can be funny and sad all at the same time.
  7. A twist at the end always makes a short story memorable.
  8. Don’t use a hundred words to describe something when one will do.
  9. Think of a title that is going to really grab the reader from the start.
  10. Remember, the only limit is your imagination.


  • What advice would you give to young writers about pursuing becoming a writer?

You have to remember that sadly no one is going to wave a magic wand for you and make your dreams come true. It all has to come from you.

  • You have written so many books, how do you get your inspiration for your stories?

Mainly from my imagination. Writing is like dreaming really. You just need to find a way to go deep into your mind to find the stories.

  • Do you find it harder ‘write’ funny than to ‘act’ funny?

Writing funny is harder because you don’t have all the tools you use to deliver a joke, such as tone of voice or facial expression.

  • What was your favourite children’s book growing up?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. It is so imaginative, it surprises me every time I re-read it.

  • What stories do you love to read now?

I love returning to ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. For me, this is the first important piece of children’s literature, and influenced everyone from CS Lewis to JK Rowling.

  • What were you like at school? Did you have a favourite subject?

I love English and history. I liked reading and writing stories in English and learning all about the dark and dangerous characters who shaped the world in history.

More writing tips from authors

The 2020 story writing competition theme was Hidden Talents, judged by Radio DJ, presenter and children’s author Greg James. After all, everyone has a talent and anyone can be a writer, right?!

Discover Greg James’ writing wisdom here.

What are some good writing tips?

And here are even more writing tips to help young people become even better writers…

Read lots and lots

Fiction, non-fiction, menus and instructions – whatever you can get your hands on! Reading widely can inspire you with ideas of your own, as well as helping to widen your vocabulary and improve your writing skills.

Be inspired by your favourite authors

Whether it’s David Walliams, Greg James or someone else – there’s nothing wrong with taking stories, ideas or writing styles you love and making them your own.

Create interesting characters

Try people watching on the street or at the park to get an idea for new characters. You could also take elements from your friends and family to create believable, interesting characters that your readers want to learn more about.

Write wherever, whenever

On the bus, in the playground, or even in the bath! Wherever you are, carry on writing to keep your creative juices flowing. Carry a notepad in your bag for whenever a light-bulb moment strikes.

Have patience

It’s hard to be creative all of the time. If you’re having a bad day with your writing, remember to be patient. Even the most famous writers go through dry spells.

If you don’t succeed the first time, try again!

If you read back over your story and decide it doesn’t make sense or isn’t up to your usual standard – don’t despair. The beauty of creative writing is experimenting with new ideas and writing techniques. If you don’t like your first attempt, just try again tomorrow.

Spend time coming up with an engaging first line

The first line of a story can be what makes a reader decide if they want to carry on reading to the end. Spend some time coming up with an engaging first line that will make them pay attention and want to know more.

Try ending on a cliffhanger or twist

Not all stories end happily ever after. Why not try surprising your readers with a shocking twist or leave them wanting more with a curious cliffhanger?

Writer’s note: A cliffhanger is when you end a story with an unanswered question

Believe in yourself

And perhaps most importantly, believe in yourself and your writing abilities! Have the confidence to share your writing with the world.

Writing tips for teenage writers and young adults

Here are some tips for older children on becoming the best young author they can be.

Do some research

You don’t just have to rely on your imagination to come up with a new story. Most writers put hours of research into each new book they create. Perhaps you want to know more about a certain location or event to create a rich and realistic background for your writing? Or maybe you want to learn more about a certain time period in history to develop the setting?

A few hours of research at the library or online can provide a fantastic source of inspiration.

Keep your notes for inspiration

Keep all your old notepads for when writer’s block strikes. Reading over your old notes can help you to think up new ideas, as well as showing you how far you’ve come in your writing journey.

Get inspired by your life experiences

Pay attention to all the things happening around you, from everyday activities to exciting events. Your real life is probably your biggest source of inspiration for your writing. Try saying yes to more invitations to expand your horizons and give your brain more food for thought.

Think outside the box and experiment with ideas

Some rules are made to be broken. Whether it’s mixing up a story plot or being creative with language – experiment with original ideas to make your writing stand out.

Write about what you love

If you have a passion – use it! Writing about what you love can help to bring your excitement for the subject out of your head and onto the page. It will also encourage you to keep going when things feel tough.

Think about what makes you unique

Whether it’s your character development, writing style or sense of imagination – think about what makes your writing different and celebrate it!

Plan the structure of your story

Coming up with a loose plan and structure for your story before you start writing can help you to organise your ideas and keep the story flowing. Even if it’s just a beginning, middle and end – having a plan in place can help to structure your work.

Share your writing

Whether it’s with friends, family, teachers or even online forums – sharing your writing and asking for feedback is a fantastic way of developing your writing skills. Find out what other people loved about your story, if there are any confusing sections, or what your readers want to know more about.


Feeling a little flat? Why not try collaborating with other young writers to come up with new and exciting ideas for creative writing projects? Writing collaborative stories online or in-person could help you see things from a different perspective.

Listen to criticism and advice

Listening to criticism can be hard. Try to remember that your family, friends and teachers are only trying to encourage your talent and help you be the best writer you can be. Constructive criticism is there to help you, so make the most of it.


Feeling like you’ve got some more ideas swirling around that brain of yours? Get your pen to paper and get writing at home! Follow us on Instagram @explorelearning_official for more tips and tricks!


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Need additional help with your creative writing technique? Our team of experienced English tutors are on hand with expert advice to get those creative juices flowing. Book your free trial today!


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