In 2013, a year after I had published my first book, I wrote this post for an online media/arts/review site called MARSocial. I’m amazed at how much I had learned in those twelve months – and how much I had forgotten. I’m re-posting it, as the information might be of interest to any aspiring writers out there. It did me good to read it again, too.
You have a book in your head. How do you get it out? It’s one thing to imagine the setting, plot and characters, but a whole other story (pardon the pun) in writing it down. Some may find it easier to free write as the thoughts flow, and then put them in order. Others like to begin at the beginning. What works for me is having a rough idea where my story is going to end, and work towards it. I find by doing this it gives me direction and focus, even though I may change the ending when I get there. You need to hook your readers in the first few paragraphs, making them want to know more, to turn that page, to finish that chapter.
Read your dialogue aloud. Use five senses when writing. Show action through dialogue when you can. Develop your voice, this usually takes two or three books. When you find yourself focusing on the story and not the writing, then you know you have your voice. Don’t let the words get in the way of the story; simple writing can be much more difficult than using many words. That is where editing and re-editing comes in. Apply Stephen King’s formula, “Good copy = draft – 10 per cent.”
Keep your audience in mind as you write. What are they passionate about and what irritates them in real life? Are you writing for a teenage reader or an adult? Find your rhythm, read what you have written out loud, including punctuation points used. Look for any discord that will break the flow of the prose for the reader. Don’t have too many key characters, for 100,000 words five is usually enough. Sometimes around the 30,000 words mark a writer will come to a slump. It happened to me on my second book. For a couple of weeks I struggled to finish a chapter, so I switched to a totally different genre and began a short story. That got my imagination flowing again. It might not work for you but it’s worth a try. That short story I used as a diversion turned into a book. Writing poetry or flash fiction may be the answer, while you try to rekindle your enthusiasm. When you have finished your book, put it away and let it rest. I usually do this for a month, and then read it as a reader, not a writer.
Even if you never publish it, you have achieved something special. A flash of inspiration was nurtured by your imagination, and grew into a story that became a book. There’s nothing to stop you writing another one. Join a writer’s group, either locally or online, and enjoy an interchange of encouragement. Never compare yourself to other writers, your voice is unique.
I will leave you with an excerpt from Brenda Ueland’s book, “If You Want to Write.” (First Published in 1938)
“Why should we all use our creative power and write or paint or play music, or whatever it tells us to do? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money. Because the best way to know Truth or Beauty is to try to express it …. And share it with others.”
Jean Reinhardt 2013