When you’ve finished a first draft, put it away for a month before showing any one.
Read your book out loud, or at least some of it. How things sound, the rhythms, make a difference.
You can’t please everyone and shouldn’t aim to. Write for yourself, but ideally with humility (don’t be boring!).
Keep a notebook and record overheard Continue readingby
1. Don’t stop until you reach ‘The End’ – you must have something entire to work on and edit, and it doesn’t matter if your first draft is raw.
2. Never give up. It’s trite, but true. You will face rejection at some point, no author gets away with this, and you must have faith and a thick skin.
3. Love what you’re writing. Is this the kind of book you would be excited to read? Have fun with it – this will inject so much life and energy into your voice.by
1. Enrol in a writing class – or at least join a writers’ group. A class will give you theory, discipline, feedback, industry savvy and encouragement.
2. Plan. Yes, some writers write by the ‘seat of their pants’ without a plan, and if that works for you, good luck and I’ll shut up. I bet it won’t. I bet you’ll get stuck about 25,000 words in, or later you’ll find you’ve written an unstructured mess. If that happens, go back and write a synopsis, then a chapter-by-chapter summary. Then start writing again with confidence you know where you’re going.
3. Write for Continue readingby
First tip, Persevere, persevere, persevere! And write every single day, as every day that you do is a day that your work is improving, trust me.
Second tip? Be brave too; remember it’s highly unlikely that a publisher is going to knock on your front door and ask if you’ve any manuscripts lying around they could publish. Nothing will happen unless you take the first step and get your work out there.
Third tip, an agent is your best friend though, and I’d advice anyone starting out to secure and agent first and the rest will follow.by
Realise that you will occasionally look at what you’ve written and think it’s crap. Don’t panic at that. Just sit down and write. You will get distracted, it’s inevitable, just make sure you give yourself a good telling off and get back to work. Give yourself a target word count everyday. Something realistic and achievable. My target is 1,500 a day – that might seem a small amount to some people, but it works for me.by
There’s a reason why publishers have editors and why every writer needs one. Because it’s a different job than being a writer. The same applies when we’re writing a novel. Writing is writing, it’s creative and visceral. It’s the difference between designing a house and building one. When you’re writing, be a writer. When you’re editing, be an editor, but never confuse the two.by
1. Keep moving forward. Don’t get stuck editing the same passage over and over again. There’s time for that later. I think that a first draft is all about getting the whole story down on paper as quickly as you can, and then sitting back and assessing what you’ve got.
2. If you have a block write through it. Don’t give up because you are stuck on a passage that’s going to be difficult to write. Write a version of it, however bad. Eventually you’ll hit a point where the story flows again. And then it’ll be easy to go back and rewrite.
3. Don’t think you have to write in perfect, grammatically correct, English. You’re Continue readingby
As readers of my newsletter know, Muse slipped into my head and took up residence while I was reading Paradise Lost at school and then refused to leave. At the time I took him at face value, but I’m pretty sure now he isn’t a real muse at all, because he’s male, steely-blue, wears a lot of leather, is winged, has talons and is devilishly handsome, if you like that kind of thing. Everyone else seems to have a fairly useful female Muse, but no – I have to be landed with a creature who needs to be arm-wrestled into submission every morning.
But then, that’s not such a bad thing, because there’s no point in wafting around looking soulful and waiting for the Muse of Inspiration to stop flitting round the room and land. No – get a firm grip and tell him or her to jolly well get on with it, and then soon the only thing flying will be your novel.
It’s taken me many years and many books to get to the point where I could call myself a disciplined writer and the turning point for me was when I realised I couldn’t work anywhere with broadband or wifi. So now I take my laptop to a cafe to write every day, just for two to two and a half hours. I have yet to have a day when I didn’t get to my 1000 word goal. Sometimes I even finish early and go and mooch around the shops for a while. It’s all about knowing your own limitations and working around them. It’s also about routine. The best gift for a hard-working novelist is for every day to be the same as the last!
I’d say that characters are more important than plot because it’s really good, believable characters that ultimately create plot. That said, you need a strong kernel of a structural idea to place the characters into from the start – it can be a simple as two contrasting characters falling in love, meeting after a long absence, both wanting the same thing that only one can have etc. I find that if my characters aren’t established enough, the plot tend to become more and more extreme and farcical to try to keep the reader engaged, whereas really loveable, rounded characters should achieve that engagement in the first placeby
Make sure your supporting characters add interest and depth to the central story, as opposed to start telling a story of their own, distracting the reader from the fates of the hero and heroine and splitting your story in two.
A perfect hero? Easy – all the good aspects and none of the less enticing ones that real men tend to have! Seriously, just make the hero someone you would LOVE to meet, both physically and mentally. But most of all, give him a charismatic personality. Identikit characters let down so many otherwise well written books. And good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo!by
Write in different places. In the car. In a cafe. With a writing buddy. Read a book. Watch a film. Listen to a radio drama. Have a long bath or a dog walk or a swim, where you can wrestle, really wrestle, with a tricky plot point. (And remember that every plot difficulty can be overcome. You’re in charge.) Write long hand. On lined paper. On plain paper. In a beautiful notebook. You will see the text in a different way and have an altered perspective on your writing. And if you are really stuck ask the question: what is the worst thing that can happen to my character right now?
With a young baby and masses of deadlines heading my way, finding the time – or making the time – to write has become of critical importance. For me, setting targets and creating a routine is the only way to do it. If I don’t schedule in the writing hours, I know they won’t happen! Whether it’s getting up at five in morning or squeezing in a few words before bedtime, I love ending the day feeling like I’ve accomplished my goal.by
If I let my internal editor take over, I would never write a book a year – let alone two. It used to take me more time to write the first fifth of my books than the entire rest of it – mainly because I kept reading over that first fifth again and again, editing it over and over, instead of letting my thoughts flow through to the rest of the book. Far better to push on and come back to the early stuff later when you have a much better overall view of what the book needs. Of course, it’s easier said than done. I’m still a total control freak!by