Writing tips from a beginner at the end of book one
It’s been a fantastic bumpy road for the last two years. I’m not so much a beginner now. I don’t know if I’d call myself a professional writer, but I’ve heard this is a feeling that sticks around even the most profound authors. My book – Hunting for Witches – is finally released and I thought what a great opportunity to share with you what I’ve learnt along the way.
- Have patience. At the start, I thought I needed to know everything about my story and stressed out when I didn’t, which leads me to my second point…
- The firsts draft is you getting to know your story. It’s not going to be perfect, so stop trying to make it so. I struggled many times rewriting the first half of the book before I finally powered through and got to the end. Even then when I thought it was finished, it wasn’t. I think I did that another five times, in total I re-drafted about 11 times. Hopefully, with each book, this number will get smaller and smaller. But now I know, it’s impossible for me to know the entire story the first time around.
- Just because you think something is funny, doesn’t mean you should put it in. It’s like a joke taken out of context. You may say certain things to your friends, but in black and white, it just looks weird. But that’s what redrafting is for.
- You don’t need to over explain a person’s actions. For example, I would often write things like: ‘I picked up the bottle with my hand, then raised it to my mouth and drank.’ All this can be shortened to say ‘I took a drink’. Save your descriptions for the exciting things, not the mundane.
- Kill your darlings. Yes, it’s been said many times over by many writers, but it’s true. If a scene doesn’t move the plot forward, cut it. If it takes twenty pages to explain one important thing, maybe you can cut it and add the important thing in another scene.
- Bums on seats. If you don’t actually schedule in time to write, it won’t happen.
- It will be done when it’s done. Put down the manuscript for a few weeks and write something else after you finish. I know it’s tempting to jump straight into editing, but going back to it after you have forgotten it, feels like you’re reading it for the first time. You catch way more mistakes this way.
- Scrivener is amazeballs. Okay, it’s got it’s ups and downs, I also like to write bits in google drive so I can access it anywhere, but scrivener lets you view split screens, arrange chapters, scenes, synopsis and more. You can drag across character sheets from file to file so you don’t have to re-write them for the next book in the series. It’s well worth the investment.
- Get a professional editor. If you are new like me, it’s well worth it. I have learned so much from the process with my editor Ann, that I’m not sure I can do without her. You don’t want to start your career as the writer who can’t write.
- Don’t force yourself to write in a way you aren’t comfortable with. Yes, it’s good to push the boundaries, but if you think you have to outline every inch of plot because that’s what other writers do, don’t. I actually find the best way for me is to oscillate between pantsing and plotting. So I guess I’m a plantser.
- Having quick reference guides pinned to the wall keep you on track. These keep my writing flowing, so that I don’t have to stop, open the thesaurus, check for synonyms .. get distracted by Facebook because I can’t find the right word, never end up back at my book. Below, there are a few free printables you can use that I have on my walls. Sign up to my newsletter to make sure you are always the first to hear about new worksheets and printables I create.
- If it’s a series, you don’t have to put all of it in first go. High concept novels that become series can afford to save a little of the information until the next book.
- Have more than two proof readers. You are not included. Just to be clear, proofreading is extra to copy-editing and line edits. Because I’m new, I got my editor to help with the over all story structure and then a line by line look at my sentences. After these changes have been made, you then need to do an extra sweep for typos and misspelled words. I did two runs after this, but there were still mistakes. I recommend getting a few of your friends to read the final book before you upload it. Because I didn’t do this, now I have some very valuable first editions with special typos in them – hey, I like to keep things positive all right?