Friday, 29 July 2011

My Brit Mum Post on tips to writing a novel

When Susannah invited me to write a blog about novel-writing tips, I sat down and wrote a list. What this list perhaps doesn’t convey is how it has to be something you really want to do - you can’t imagine life without writing a book. I know this sounds extreme. It has to, because the whole process of writing a novel is hard but even harder perhaps, is getting published. Inevitably you will have to face rejections from agents and then later publishers, before your novel is accepted. If you don’t manage to find a home for it, you need the strength and will to dust of the rejections and persevere. If the first novel doesn’t sell, then perhaps the second one will, or even the third, or fourth. Even after all of this, it will be competing with hundreds of other books and for all this effort – it is quite likely that you won’t make a fortune. Of course there is always a chance that your book will be one of the tiny minority snapped up at auction! And go on to be bestseller. There is always that hope. If you are still determined then go ahead, and good luck. Here are my tips to help you on the way:

·      Make a commitment that you are going to write a novel.
·      Just start
·      Decide a time of day/night to write and stick to it. Give yourself at least one hour daily- two would be better.
·      Write at least five times a week if you can.
·      You can’t write a novel half-heartedly. Take yourself seriously or no one else will.
·      Don’t answer the telephone or make appointments during your writing time.
·      Join a writers group, where you can get feedback and support.
·      Go on a writer’s retreat or a good writer’s course.
·      Research.  Talk to people, interview them if you need to, read, make notes.
·      If you find writing dialogue hard, say it out-loud to see if it sounds real.
·      Don’t worry if it’s not an excellent first draft; just get it down on paper.

·      Don’t read back and despair. Or if you do despair, don’t give up; persevere.  All writers I know go through the idea of thinking their work is crap.

·      Keep going to the end.

·      After every 20,000 words or so (or whatever works for you) print out and read to retain a sense of all the strands of the novel.
·      The secret of novel writing is in the rewrite. Don’t be afraid to edit, cut back, rewrite.
·      Note places where it doesn’t seem to make sense, or where you need to add information. Cut out anything superfluous. Cut again.
·      When you think you have finished and are dying to show someone, wait          and do one more rewrite.

·      After that you could show the book to a few choice friends and get their feedback

My novel, Seven Days One Summer is out now with Short Books.  Please buy it and take it on holiday with you!

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