Writing is hard work. But it's not a mysterious process. Here are ten important tips to help you develop your writing skills:

Tip One: You need to believe in your story. Readers become emotionally involved, immersed in the story you're telling them. If you don't believe it yourself, neither will they.

Tip Two: Believe In your readers. Don't talk down to them.

Tip Three: Create strong characters. We need to identify with characters if we are to care what happens to them. Let them have depth, and some quirks and contradictions. People aren't one-dimensional, nor are they stereotypes. Neither should your characters be.

Tip Four: Conflict lies at the foundation of successful stories - and is the engine that drives all narrative. Literary conflict comes in an infinite variety of guises from all out physical conflict - skop, skiet and donder to the subtlest of polite disagreements.

Tip Five: Write in strong scenes. We want the story told in a series of tangible scenes. Each should have a dramatic proposition that carries the story forward and develops your characters. Place us right inside the scene, so that we can see and hear it for ourselves.

Tip Six: Show, don't tell. In other words, don't include paragraphs and paragraphs of exposition. Show what your characters are like, don't tell us. Don't tell us she's kind. Show us her kindness, and his inability to trust - through what they say and do, and how other characters relate to them.

Tip Seven: Create a believable setting. You must know it well in order to write it. You need to know far more than will ever appear in your book. But knowing the details gives you the confidence to write with authority. Don't get carried away by your research and write long details just for the sake of showing it off. Research is like good make-up. It should make you look better, but you shouldn't be aware of it.

Tip Eight: Every detail has a job to do. Every description, every subsidiary character, every scene, must take the story forward or develop your main characters further.

Tip Nine: Write believable dialogue. This is what people first notice about a book. If the dialogue rings true, it brings pace and energy to a story. It helps you "show”, rather than tell what your characters are like. Dialogue should be the appearance of real speech. But if you've ever recorded people speaking, you'll see they do a lot of repeating and um-ing and ah-ing. The challenge for the writer is to give the appearance of real speech, without its drawbacks. Allow people to interrupt each other, have them not finish their sentences, but don't let them go on long, circuitous repetitions.

Tip Ten: Edit well. You can fix almost anything in the rewrite. Switch from your writer persona, who loves every word, to a more critical editor. Look at every scene, character and detail. Does it take the story forward? Be ruthless. Cut adjectives and look for the dreaded sagging middle. If things sag in the middle, look for scenes where nothing much happens. Kill them or make sure something happens that will move your story along.

They're easy to say, but harder to adhere to. We guarantee, though, that if you can make these points work for you, your writing will be better.

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