Ten writing tips by Aga Lesiewicz

Aga Lesiewicz is our Retreat Leader for the Creative Writing Course.

Get a taster of Aga's style and skills here. She will be with you everyday if you choose to join us on a Tutored Creative Writing Retreat, which includes Pilates each morning with Georgie, a beautiful massage, time to write and opportunites to explore Umbria and Tuscany.



SR Travelling1.     Be honest with yourself. Are you ready to fully commit to writing a book? Why do you want to write it? And most importantly - would you want to read it if it were written by someone else?

2.     Collect real-life stories. This is where all fiction stems from. Observe and listen to people. There are no stories without people. Every person carries a good story within them, even if they don’t realise it.

3.     Visit places. Places are goldmines – they can dictate the whole narrative. Acquaint yourself with the place, soak in its atmosphere, notice colours and smells, listen for its unique sounds. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or imaginary – spend some time in it.





SR Rome Trevi Fountain4.     Do your research. Google isn’t enough. Relying solely on the internet is like using cake mix instead of individually sourced ingredients to bake a cake. You’ll end up with a cake that looks and tastes like millions of other cakes.

5.     Ask questions. ‘What would happen if?’ is a really good kick-off point. The most daring questions produce the most compelling scenarios. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone.

6.     Write every day, even when the muse is having a day off. She can be a fickle girl. But being a writer is a craft that needs practice, consistency, and endurance. Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint.


SR man writing7.     Let your characters hijack the plot, even if it changes your original plan. It’s a really satisfying moment when that happens - it means the characters and your story have come alive.

8.     Find yourself a good Beta Reader – a trusted friend who is not a writer, but can give you feedback from the point of view of a regular reader. Beta Readers are worth their weight in gold.

9.     Once you’ve finished writing the manuscript, go back to the beginning and write the first sentence again. A lot hinges on that opening line.

10.   Read as much as you can. There’s nothing more inspiring than a well-written novel.

Five books that have inspired me:

1.     THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE by Haruki Murakami

It’s an extraordinary tour-de-force of a novel, part fantastical mystery, part psychological thriller, and part a riveting piece of historical fiction. It’s one of those books that can’t be fully explained: it has to be experienced. The Chronicle stays with you for the rest of your life.

2.     RESTLESS by William Boyd

A beautifully written espionage thriller with a strong female protagonist. It’s gripping, sensuous, intelligent and very, very dark. I wish I could write like this!

3.     BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett

Based on a historical event – a hijacking of the Japanese embassy in Lima – it’s a story of life under siege that’s moving, romantic, filled with tension, and totally addictive. An elegant and electrifying read.

4.     CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr

A novel that defies time and convention, spanning centuries and continents, from 15th century Constantinople to a spaceship that escapes the Earth some time in the future. It’s both epic and intimate, and it has left me literally breathless.

5.     GREAT CIRCLE by Maggie Shipstead

An exhilarating tale of courage, ambition and passion that follows the lives of a daredevil female aviator and an actress who portrays her on screen many decades later. Dazzling and bittersweet.


Join Aga and Georgie on their Creative Writing and Pilates retreat in Italy.