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
The most important thing to remember is that we live in a digital age. You don’t have to worry about saving paper. Stick down every sh*tty sentence that comes into your head. Write, write, write and edit afterwards. Editing as you go will only slow you down.by
Crime writers are often asked how to create suspense. Now, of course there are tricks of the trade and we all use our fair share of twists and cliffhangers. We all choose when and how to reveal key pieces of information. BUT, for me, they key to creating genuine suspense is really very simple. You need to give the reader characters with whom they can genuinely engage. If you do that, if you create well-rounded characters, you will have suspense from the very first page.by
Keep your readers gripped by giving them enough new information/action to keep them guessing and interested – but not so much that it falls onto them in one go. Pace is vital.
If you’re not sure if your ‘reveals’ are in the right place, make a graph with chapter number on the left and plot on the bottom. Chart each plot point/reveal with a mark by the chapter it appears in. Your flat points will soon be exposed.by
“It took me an age to actually sit down and start writing. All the fears as to whether I could actually do it and whether I was good enough. And then, one day I sat down and I started.
All you need to do it sit down and start. Write, write and write. Forget quality control. Get your story down, let the words flow from your brain to the page. Live and feel your story. Become the characters. And keep the momentum going by continuing to write. Whenever you can.
The feeling when it’s all down is immense. You did it, you told the story that you dreamed you would. You are halfway there. And now your story is a huge screwed up ball of paper that with a lot of careful editing will soon have all the creases flattened out.”by
Halfway through your project it will all seem impossible and you will be tempted to jack it in and begin another, far more exciting idea. Trust me, that idea will get difficult halfway through, too. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You may not find your voice or style straight away. Write the book you would love to read yourself.by
My advice? Keep going, keep going, keep going. Don’t look back. If I stop after every chapter and try to edit what I’ve done, I get sucked into changes and tweaks and I never push on with the word count. This can shake your confidence, especially if you’re a perfectionist. So much will change when you’ve finished – scenes you thought were terrible suddenly have a new significance; likewise others you loved might no longer be needed. You can’t know your parameters until you’ve written ‘The End’ and you have an entire book. Keep going until you get there, a little every day.
For more information on Victoria, visit http://www.victoriafox.net/by
Hi Laura, thanks for asking me on the blog today, and best of luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo!
Writing recurring characters is a bit like visiting an old friend. Of course you love her, but you also know all about her flaws. And so do your fans.
Plus: You already know the character. This makes it easy to put her into a new situation and know how she’ll behave.
Minus: You already know the character. It can be difficult to sustain your enthusiasm for the book over 80,000-100,000 words.
Plus: Continue readingby
Write because you want to tell stories, not because you ‘want to be a writer’
Look after your posture – this is ESSENTIAL!
Don’t spend too long faffing and editing – that’s just a fancy way of procrastinating.
I used to have to leave my apartment to work on “The Wedding Guests.” I’d lock myself in my friend’s beach house where I had no cell phone reception, or I’d go to my Aunt Nancy’s and hide in the basement where there was no TV. I had to block out all distractions. I had no attention span whatsoever. But I’ve matured since then. (Sort of.) Now that I’m writing my second book, I don’t have to hide in remote locations. I can write in my bedroom, and the décor is all the motivation I need. On the wall in front of my writing spot (my very fluffy bed) is a painting of cotton candy, my favorite sweet. My friend’s ex-husband, a professional artist, made it for me as a housewarming present. They decided to divorce shortly after I hung the piece on my wall. I almost took it down after they split, but then I remembered that it’s my friend’s hand in the painting. She was the model, holding up the cone of cotton candy while he tried to get it down on canvas. There’s something inspiring about having the finished product nearby as I write. My friend’s hand looks so tough, so determined — just like she was in real life after the divorce. I see her strong grip and I think, “Keep moving.”by
Whether you’re an author writing a novel, a gardener on an allotment, or an evil genius planning to take over the world, if there’s one thing you need, it’s a good plot. Assuming you’re reading this because you’re doing NaNoWriMo (so we’re talking about novels here), put simply, a plot is the sequence of events that make up a story – and while the order of those events (and of course, the events themselves) are up to you, getting that order (and the events) right is crucial if you’re going to engage the reader. I’m a romantic comedy novelist, and while everyone knows how romantic comedies go (girl meets boy, stuff happens, girl and boy end up together), it’s always helped me to think about my plots (the stuff that happens) not as HOW they get together, but as what STOPS them from getting together. Some writers plot their whole novels before writing a word, others just sit down, start writing, and see how the plot develops. I’ve tried both approaches, and probably prefer the latter. But if you like to plot beforehand and are having trouble, you’ll be pleased to hear seven ready-made ones already exist for you to choose from for FREE (don’t believe me? Just type ‘The Seven Basic Plots’ into Google). Presumably you know the start and end points of your novel – then ‘all’ you need to do is pick the one that applies to your story/setting/characters and get writing!by
While I need to have a permanent writing space, somewhere I can spread out and make as much of a mess as I like, I often find that changing where I write can help me be more productive. Last week I spent eight hours writing in a cafe. I was stiff and hyper-caffeinated afterwards, but I got a lot of work done. My local library also has study carrels, which are great because they’re anonymous cubes with no distractions at all…though occasionally I think I startle the person in the next carrel by laughing aloud! Sneakily, against the rules, I smuggle a flask of tea into a carrel and spend hours making that bland space full of my imaginary characters.by
When people ask me for advice about writing, I always say the same thing: Write what YOU love. Then your writing will come across as genuine, and heartfelt, and if you enjoy it reading it back, then someone else definitely will.
Also if you think your story is just as good or preferably better than those you’re seeing on the bookshelves, then never give up on your dream, no matter how many rejections you may get at first. Because someone some day will read your work and love it just as much as you!
‘Write. Seriously, it astonishes me how many people tell me they want to be a writer but then confess they never write anything more elaborate than a shopping list. Write everyday even if it’s only for 20 minutes. Discipline is key. You also need to listen. Be inspired by everything that is going on around you.’by
‘I find social networking useful in all kinds of ways. It makes me visible, it allows readers in interact with me (which is a privilege) and allows me to get news about new books or workshops out into the world. It’s also a great source of research – not so much factual research, but opinions and ideas. For example: Is it OK to use text to ask for a second date? (Answer: yes!) My hero’s going to a fancy dress party. What should he go as that’s hot? (Answer: devil in lycra.) Twitter and Facebook seem to know the answers to any question in the world.’
For more information on Sue and her books, visit her website at www.suemoorcroft.comby
Write for yourself. Write the type of book you love reading, or on a subject you’re passionate about. That honesty will feed through your work.
Be open to inspiration. It’s all around us. Start keeping a notepad and pen on your person and make yourself write one thing in it every day, whether it’s a snippet of conversation, an interesting sight, or something you watched on TV that caught your imagination. Inspiration is out there; you just need to tune in.
Just write. It doesn’t matter if your idea isn’t yet fully-formed. Mine never are and so far they seem to end up being something that works!
Give yourself time off! Do other things in between writing periods! Take it slowly!by
For me, research is an important part of understanding your character and your plot. I will always try to go to a place I set a book in person, take photos, talk to people and if possible write in situ. When it comes to characterisation, if your characters are facing a real life problem, then research can be invaluable. When researching ‘Dearest Rose’ I spoke to many women who had found themselves in a similar situation to Rose. Her character was created out of all of those stories, and as a result she is one of my most powerful heroines.by
Over the month, to coincide with National Novel Writing Month, authors will be offering pieces of advice to help whether you’re taking part in the NaNoWriMo craziness or writing your first draft at your own pace.
On day one, it seemed only fitting that one of the founders of National Novel Writing Month kick things off…
“Don’t be discouraged by the quality of your first drafts. They will get better in time. Know that all the books which inspire you to write all started out as craptastic first drafts. Follow your heart and write the book that excites you, not the book you feel you should write.”
If you never edit yourself, start. Don’t be afraid to cut and change.
If you edit yourself too much, stop. You will never create a perfect first draft, just get one finished.
Don’t get close friends or family to critique your work. Their praise isn’t entirely unbiased and their criticism will annoy you.
Be prepared to put the novel in a drawer and leave it for six months while you start something else. Then go back to it and see what it’s like fresh. You’ll be surprised.by
Read lots – you’ll absorb style and vocabulary
Write as often as you can – practice makes perfect
Get yourself a dedicated workspace and lots of stationery. If you want to be a writer – you need the official tools
Remember that writing isn’t easy – you will always hit sticky parts and think ‘this is rubbish’ – it’s quite normal
Don’t be held back by fear of rejection – if you have talent and resilience you will eventually find a door that opens for you and then you will be soooo glad that you fought for and won the best job in the world.
Don’t talk about your work except to someone you absolutely trust. Certainly don’t announce to the world ‘I’m writing a novel’ as your family and friends will never stop asking you about it.
Write the book you would love to read yourself.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. You may not find your voice or style straight away.
Halfway through your project it will all seem impossible and you will be tempted to jack it in and begin another, far more exciting idea. Trust me, that idea will get difficult halfway through, too.