I definitely don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, since I still haven’t published my first novel, but here are five things that I believe every new writer should know.
I know that everybody says this but I think it is the most important thing for every writer to know and do. How can you expect yourself to be a good writer if you’re not a good reader first. But I don’t just mean sit there and read a book, though that is fun I’ll admit, what I actually mean is that you need to read the novel from a writer’s perspective.
Go back and read a book that you’ve already read, this will stop the storyline from getting in the way. Pull apart the novel, think like the author, why did they write the character doing this or thinking that, what purpose did it have in the story. Observe how minor characters effect the storyline as opposed to secondary characters. If you learn to understand the intentions of a particular author, you can learn how to apply the technique to your own work, though I won’t lie it will take time. Then you will never be able to fully enjoy a novel again.
2. Make Time and Space
A lot of people have a life outside writing. Mostly because it is nearly impossible to make a day job out of writing, unless you’re the next J.K Rowling. Set aside a certain amount of time, either every day or even every week, where all you do is work on your project. By getting into that routine you will discipline your mind to be creative when you want it to be, this will help you to write on demand, not just when you’re mind decides to throw you a bone.
You also need to make the space. An office, the bedroom, your local cafe. A place that will allow you to focus on nothing else. Those with children would find this more difficult. For this I recommend talking to your partner about your writing and agreeing on a time that they will take primary care of the children.
Pets are another distraction, as it is I had to lock my young feline out of the room in order to write this blog post, unfortunately he can open all the doors in the house so I have no escape unless I lock it, also unfortunately I then get the sulking meow from the other side of the door. Most furry friends can be locked out of the house so that you can gain some peace and quiet, others will be quite happy to leave you to it. It’s just the clingy ones you have to worry about, unfortunately I have one of those. Still trying to get him out of it.
3. Do Your Research
Different stories require different levels of research, your actual story and how much information you already know will effect the amount of research you need to do. You can do your research in one of two ways; as you need it or before you need it. Honestly I prefer option two. It means that I already have the knowledge when I require it. However that doesn’t always work, especially when your story takes a turn even you didn’t expect. This is where option one comes into play.
The main reason for this is so you know what you’re writing about. For example, you can’t write a novel based in the past and have a piece of technology that hasn’t been invented yet. Or. In regards to weapons, you can’t have particular type of weapon if they weren’t used in that geographical area during that time period. It’s all about the fact checking, and it prevents embarrassment later on if you ever get asked about it.
4. Don’t Copy Other Writers/Authors
Pretty much anybody would read that title and go of course, you can’t plagiarise, that’s illegal. But, I’m not talking about plagiarising. I’m talking about writing styles. Every writer has their own voice, it takes time but every writers finds their at some point. I will admit that I did this myself when I first started writing. But it never worked for me. Now I follow my own path as a writer, and my work is better for it.
It’s normal to look into how other writers plan, research and write their stories and try to mimic their process and get try to use it. Occasionally it will work. But usually it doesn’t or only part of it works for another writer. If you are going to study other authors’ writing processes I recommend trying several styles and use what is most comfortable.
Can you write better with everything planned or do you write better in the moment without forethought. My style is a bit of both, honestly it depends on what I’m writing. The Stray took a bit of planning, mostly because it was a first novel, The Lost, which has been written, was mostly spontaneous writing. I haven’t written the third book yet as I returned to begin the revision process for The Stray, however I know that the storyline I’ve chosen will take some planning, especially since I’m drawing the series to an end.
The only thing I can truly recommend in this area is to study. Explore writing techniques and use what works for you. Develop your own style and your own voice.
5. Don’t Expect Too Much
I can’t tell you how many times I finished a draft of The Stray then went back and to read over it nearly a month later and I was disappointed in it. I’ve forgotten how many versions of the story I’ve written, but this particular version is in its fourth draft and I have only changed the storyline in each.
I go back and read the first version of The Stray and I can barely get past the first page. I wrote it when I was twelve, and back then I thought it was the best thing in the world, I wanted to be the next Christopher Paolini, a published author as a teenager. Looking back I am seriously glad that I didn’t send it out to anybody.
I saw a meme on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago. It talked about first drafts, I can’t remember exactly what it said, and of course I am unable to find it when I want it, but it was something about how “we’re shovelling sand into a sand pit so we can build castles later” I believe that this is the best way to describe a first draft. It takes time to write a story and it doesn’t always work the first time you try. So take your time and keep writing.