Friday 25 July 2014

Writing tips for aspiring authors

10 things I wish every aspiring author knew

Here are some things I wish I'd known before I started out as an author. I used to think there was this single magic formula for writing, but I don't think there is. It's a combination of grit, hard work and inspiration. Here are my thoughts on what you need to know ...

1. You can’t wait for inspiration to strike. If you want to be an author, you need to have the discipline to sit down and write, even if you ‘don’t feel like it’.

2. Sales don’t come instantly (unless you’re very lucky … or you sold your soul to the devil). You have to work for them.

3. Once you’ve finished writing your first book, that’s when the hard work starts. I’m not really selling it to you am I? Let me try and be a bit more positive in point number 4.

4. There’s nothing quite like the feeling when you’re writing a scene and the characters’ emotions spill over into your own. You can end up laughing or crying with your own creations – that’s a pretty amazing feeling!

5. There is no ‘one way’ to write a book. Everyone has different methods. You can plot methodically, or go with the flow. My way of writing lies somewhere in between the two.

6. When writing a book, there always comes a point (usually around a third of the way in) when it becomes the hardest slog on earth, and you’ll wonder why you started writing it, and the whole thing feels like this giant waste of time. At this point, it’s advisable to have a good cry/punch a wall/ eat a whole jumbo size bar of chocolate/get drunk. Now you’ve got that out of your system, you must push on through the pain barrier and kiss and make up with your masterpiece-of-a-manuscript. After a chapter or two of hard slog, you’ll be back in love with it again.

7. Beta readers are invaluable. I have input from betas during and after the writing process. People who can look at your manuscript with fresh eyes, spot gaping plot holes, tell you your pacing is off, point out that your characters aren’t believable enough etc etc. And no, your mum is not a good choice for a beta reader.

8. Good coffee.

9. Get a thick skin. Once you finish your book, you’ll have all manner of people telling you, you suck. From editors with red pens. To gatekeepers with heart-piercing stock phrases: ‘Thank you for your submission. While we do consider it to have merit, unfortunately we ….’ But possibly the worst and most disheartening moment is your first 1 star review. Or even worse – the pompous 3 star reviewer who tells you that he/she is a writer and would’ve written it like xyz, not like your crazy-ass xyf. Learn and move on. It’s not personal.

10. Don’t always be analysing the sales and marketing and craft aspects of writing a book. Allow yourself to wallow in your scenes and step into your characters’ skins. Have fun with the plots and delight in wicked twists. Yes, writing a book is really hard work, but it’s also a wonderful experience. And there’s nothing quite like that incredible feeling of achievement when you type:

Feel free to leave a comment with your own writing tips/experiences . . .