I was planning to post on Boxing Day but time got away from me and I was busy spending time with my family and eating and drinking (wine of course, though my husband has now introduced me to Disaronno and Coke which tastes sort of like an alcoholic Dr. Pepper; very nice).
Anyway, I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and are looking forward to a Happy New Year.
I can’t believe it’s nearly 2013! This year has flown. It’s been a funny one, with the usual highs and lows, but looking back over the last twelve months this writing lark has been kind to me – I’m not published yet but there is much I can be happy about; being in the Novelicious Undiscovered Top 20, requests for full manuscripts from partial submissions, a request for a partial MS on the basis of a pitch, writing for Romance Matters, writing 45,000 words in November (meaning that I’m 90% done with the first draft of Random Acts) and of course starting a series of guest posts on this blog that have turned out to be pretty popular. As always I am warmed by how friendly and helpful the writing community is and I couldn’t be luckier than to have found something I truly love doing. I told my Aunt today that even if I won the lottery I would keep on writing… (where is that darned ticket though?)
As a slightly tardy Christmas gift from me to you I’ve popped all the best writing tips picked up from authors over the last few months into one post. So without further ado:-
1) Persist. I truly believe that the name for a writer who doesn’t give up is ‘published’ (and am living proof).
2) Educate yourself. Don’t believe that ‘writers are born, not made’ stuff. Why should it apply to writers? Great artists, musicians, dancers and actors study damned hard for many years in order to be successful. OK, you need an aptitude and you’ll hear of writers who just took their school essay-writing education, sat down on their sofa and wrote a bestseller. But not many.
3) Don’t make enemies. Editors, agents, publicists, booksellers, librarians, they all move around from job to job. If you make one hate you, odds are that your book’s fate will somehow end up in their hands …
1. To break a writing block set an egg timer for 20 minutes and write. It doesn’t matter what you write but write. It has worked every time and I thank Anna Louise Lucia for this tip.
2. Listen to your work. I use text to voice software. When I listen to my work and it’s a computer doing it with no emotion – you really hear it, clunks and all. It also gives you distance and you use a different part of your brain. I can’t recommend this enough.
3. Be professional. Don’t treat writing as a hobby if you want to be published. Treat it as a career even if you only have 20 minutes a day to give it. Invest time and money (in the form of craft books and courses, attending conferences and if necessary in professional editing before you send it out to the world).
Talli Roland (who incidentally gave birth to a beautiful boy on Xmas Eve – congratulations Talli)
1. Don’t wait for ‘the muse’. Set a schedule and stick to it.
2. When you’re writing the first draft, don’t worry about making it perfect. I think first drafts should be crap.
3. Keep writing. It’s the only way to get better.
Jill McDonald-Constable (aka Amos Carr)
1) Never, ever, give up.
2) Treat rejections as a learning process.
3) Mostly, send the right type of genre to the right publisher. It’s what worked for me!
- Write the genre you love to read yourself.
- Find a writing buddy to swap critiques with.
- Join an organisation like the RNA for support from like-minded people.
1. Write stuff.
2. Edit stuff like you have no emotional attachment to it whatsoever.
3. When you’ve done 2 to the best of your ability, move on and write some new stuff – don’t get bogged down tweaking and revisiting the same piece of work forever
To succeed as a writer you need certain qualities:-
1) You need to believe in yourself, when no one seems to.
2) You also need to be obsessive, tenacious, resilient,obstinate and obsessive. It doesn’t hurt to have a selfish streak. In other words you need to be bloody minded.
3) Most important of all, if you truly believe you’ve got what it takes, don’t just talk about it, do it! There are always reasons to put it off. But don’t wait until you have the time, until the children are off your hands, until you’ve gone part-time or you’ve retired. If you procrastinate now, you may never begin, let alone finish. If you really have a book (or books) in you, you will find a way.
1. Do not give up.
2. When you have a work in progress, have a daily target and stick to it.
3. Even if your work is rejected, don’t lock it away in a draw. Edit, polish, self-publish and put it to work. You will still earn money and might be pleasantly surprised by how much!
- Write every day if you can and stop hemming your creativity in by thinking everything has to be perfect first time. Writing is actually re-writing.
- Read as much as you can…good stuff, bad stuff, your genre, outside your comfort zone – you’ll find what works, what doesn’t.
- Do not show your work in progress to every man and his dog… only to someone who is objective, kind and reads in your genre. And then listen to what they say.
1) Finish the book
2) Don’t worry about what’s fashionable – write what feels good
3) If at all possible, don’t restrict yourself by length – the advantage of e-publishing is that you can write short stories as well and build up a catalogue.
1) I’d just like to encourage anyone reading this. There IS light at the end of the tunnel.
2) Never give up.
3) Never stop believing in your talent and ability.
1. Don’t just talk about writing your novel; if you really want to write it, write it.
2. Consider carefully and dispassionately, every constructive criticism of your novel that you receive. It’s impossible to read what you’ve written – one reads what one thinks one’s written. A good critique, based on what you’ve written, and the way in which you’ve written it (we all have writing mannerisms), is a masterclass in writing a novel.
3. It’s tempting to fiddle with the novel after every rejection. At a certain point, however, you should leave the novel alone or you risk destroying its heart and your voice, and you should start on the next novel, but keep on sending the first novel out.
1) FINISH THE BOOK! My most important tip! Yes, there will be moments (at 20,000 words, at 45000 words and so on) where you will think your manuscript is a pile of manure. This can be cleared up when you have finished the first draft. Keep going until you reach The End.
2) Don’t let one rejection end your career; all published writers are unpublished writers who kept picking themselves up and resubmitting their work.
3) Know your characters; get your characters right and the plot will look after itself. If the plot’s not working, I’m willing to bet it’s because there’s something I’ve overlooked about my main character.
1) Keep writing. Something, every day, even if it only a few words. Develop writing muscles and writing skills
2) Listen to constructive criticism from people who know – agents, editors, published authors. Even if you don’t agree with all of it, ask yourself why that particular aspect didn’t work for them.
3) Always know for whom you are writing
1. Set yourself realistic targets and finish what you start. That’s exactly what you’ll have to do once you have a contract, so you might as well practice now.
2. Do as Stephen King says and write your first draft “with the door closed,” i.e. don’t show it to anyone until you have the story down (except maybe a writing buddy), as this could interfere with your thought processes.
3. Don’t try to be something you’re not. If you write, say, light-hearted chick-lit, don’t impose a literary style on it. It won’t work. Instead always be proud of what you do, whatever your genre or niche.
1. My top tip is to never throw anything away! We have all, I’m sure, had that moment when we think we have written total cowpats and throw it across the room or are about to hit ‘delete’. Don’t! I am currently re-working something I wrote….oh, you don’t want to know how long ago. And I’m being very pleasantly surprised how much I like it and am finding it far better than I remembered it being.
2. This one seems obvious – exercise your writing muscles every day. I think of writing as the same as walking and breathing – if we don’t do both then we are in trouble, I think.
3. Until I write THE END on a piece of work I don’t leave it when I’m working on it at the end of a sentence. I don’t put a full stop, ever, at the end of my working day. I always leave a sentence unfinished and I find doing that makes it far, far easier to get back into it the next day.
1. Just write the first draft straight through – don’t try and edit as you go along; you might never finish it! Accept that the first draft is a working draft, not meant to be perfect. I call it my ‘dirty’ draft because it’s so rough!
2. Don’t accept that such a thing as writer’s block exists. No matter what distractions there are and no matter how you might procrastinate, put bum in chair and get bloody writing. Write anything – a scene, a short story, a magazine article…
3. Don’t be coy about writing or apologise for the fact that you want to be a published author, be proud and believe in yourself.
And okay one extra… send your stuff out into the ether, listen to feedback that people give you but stay true to your story and above all, never stop writing, never stop trying.
What are the best writing tips you’ve ever received? Which work for you?
Happy Writing, Nikki x
p.s. Guest posts will start again soon, and look out for a post that will sum up writing comps for the first half of the year.