Writing tips & wholesome scares from Darren Shan at Emirates LitFest

I stumbled on Darren Shan quite by mistake. I was hunting around my library for books to borrow (I took home seven, yes that’s right) and I saw a little card next to a row of books that read: “Emirates LitFest author”. That piqued my interest along with the books in question being in the Young Adult (YA) section.

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So I picked up an omnibus of the first three books in a series: Cirque du Freak, The Vampire’s Assistant, and Tunnels of Blood.

I was impressed. While I may not be the conventional YA target market, I do enjoy YA books a lot. These were branded as “horror”, though I didn’t get very scared. Perhaps Shan had it down pat when he said at his session that his books are a mixture of things; indeed, the Darren Shan series is more action/adventure…with characters that happen to be paranormal.

Anyway, I decided to go to his session and I’m glad I did. Shan knows how to put on a great show for his audience; with three readings, tips as well as good-naturedly answering all the questions put to him, the session was a blast.

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Shan said he has published 30 books including three for adults, but has “written lots more that have never been published.”

He also read three excerpts from his books, including one from his new zombie series that will be published this year. And as he said, they’re suitably gruesome. A friend of mine told me later her 10/11-year-old son was very excited to hear the reading and said he absolutely had to read that book when it did release.

Boys.

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But what I really took away from that session was his writing tips, which are really quite helpful to those young, budding writers out there (including myself!). I even highlighted at the end the tip I found most insightful: 

  • “Don’t be discouraged if you write a story you don’t like.”
  • “If you are writing for yourself and not for school, write the sort of stories you would like to read.”
  • “If you are a writer, read different types of books and watch different types of movies.”
  • “I don’t think writer’s block exists except in very few cases. I think a lot of young writers use “writer’s block” as an excuse.”
  • “Writing is hard work.”
  • “To write good stories, you have to write bad stories first.”

Thanks for coming down to Emirates LitFest, Darren Shan. I bet you’ve inspired many young kids out there to get reading and dabbling in writing.

And judging by the insanely long line of kids wanting your signature in their books…you’re doing a fine job. A fine job indeed.

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