Start your novel or play - here's how you can get writing

To coin a phrase - everyone has a book inside them – and this is the time to let it out.

This is said with apologies to journalist and intellectual Christopher Hitchens, who recommended that most novels remain inside their would-be creator.Isolation, though, can be a creative time. Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth and

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Antony and Cleopatra while he was quarantined during a black plague outbreak in the early 1600s.

Just as now theatres were closed, so Shakespeare went into quarantine.Whatever your creative writing ambitions – poetry, plays, short stories, novels, film or radio scripts – there is help out there.

Online, magazines, self-help books and writing groups to name a few.

Meetings of writing groups have largely been cancelled but that does not stop members helping each other. Quite the opposite!

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Fellow scriptwriters in my group have already emailed others saying they are ready, waiting and able to read and comment on our submissions.

Their criticism is vital to the process.

Magazines including Writing Magazine is full of tips, exercises and interviews. You can subscribe and, of course, it has an online edition.

Self-help books are legion. Among the best are Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder.Ready Steady Novel and Things to Write About, produced by San Francisco Writers’ Grottto, are also useful and fun.

The Writers’ Tool Kit by Jamie Cat Callan is a box full of games and exercises.For children, Usborne have produced a fabulous range including three-volume box set called the Writing Box.

Also in the range is Write Your Own Adventure Stories.

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They are full of ideas and exercises on developing plot, character and dialogue.There are software versions of the books and programmes to help with formatting film scripts, plays, TV drama and comedy.

Because, if you get to the submission stage, the formatting has to be spot-on.Try First Draft or Fade In – both can be downloaded for free 30-day trial before committing.

First Draft is more expensive but, like Fade In, you only pay once.

The benefits of creative writing include:Building confidenceArtistic self-expressionBoosting imaginationThought clarificationBetter understanding of mechanics of writingEnhancing communication skillsMental health benefitsBetter grammar and spellingIt is always good to have an end game, be it a competition or submission to a production/film company.

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Here are some competitions open now for submissions. You do not need an agent for any of them.

1. £10,000 Liverpool Hope National Playwriting PrizeWriters are being invited to submit their comedy scripts for a chance to win £10,000 with a potential opportunity to bring their play to life on stage.www.playwritingprize.comClosing date May 31.

2. Bridport PrizeFor short stories, novels and date May 31.

3. Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel PrizeUnpublished novels of more than 30,000 words. date: July 15.

4 Foyle Young Poets of the YearFor writers aged 11 to 17.Closing date: July 31.