The brilliant Paula Hawkins, author of the bestselling The Girl on the Train, judged the 2018 Grazia and Women’s Prize First Chapter Competition and she kindly put together some top tips for budding writers!

Be ambitious: write the best novel or story you can, not the one you feel might appeal to the widest possible readership. There’s no magic trick to writing a bestseller, so don’t go looking for one. Tell the story you have to tell, the one you can’t ignore.

Find a reader you trust: if you don’t share your work, it’s very easy to become locked inside your own head, not knowing whether or not the characters you’re created or the plot you’re weaving will have the impact or the interest you want them to have. Pick someone with similar literary tastes to your own to give you feedback.

Write it down, then get it right: if you aim for perfection in your first draft, you’ll likely never get past the first few pages. Allow yourself to get to the end of your story or novel before you return to tackle its problems.

Don’t throw anything away: few characters pop up, fully formed, in your head. Some take years to develop, these are probably the ones you’ll end up knowing and loving (and writing) the best. So hang on to all the scraps of stories or plots that you’ve started and discarded: the strongest ones will keep suggesting themselves to you until you get them right.

Re-read your favourites: when feeling disillusioned, turn to the writers you love the most, the ones that made you want to write in the first place.