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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Writing Your Book, Part One: Three Top Tips To Get You Going...


Here in England, we're moving from summer (wet and cold) into autumn (wetter and colder). It's time to put away the barbecue and suntan lotion. Instead of retreating into a world of comfort food and early nights, why not use the long, dark evenings to make your dream of writing a book come true? Writing can be fitted into any spare moment. It's light, indoor work with no heavy lifting—and I'm writing a book is a better excuse for staying home than I'm washing my hair. 

You can make a start while you're curled up with a mug of hot chocolate in front of a roaring log fire*. What could be better than that?

PERFECT PLANNING
Like making New Year's Resolutions, deciding to write a book is easy to do, but tempting to abandon. Fail to plan, and you plan to fail. Make it easy to succeed and hard to give up by formulating a mission statement.  State exactly what you want to do, and give yourself a time limit. Something like;

I will write a romantic novel 70,000 words long by 31st December 2017.

Write it out and pin it up where you'll see it every day. Put a pop-up on your phone. Talk about your ambition, and tell people what you're aiming for. It'll be easier to succeed if you're too embarrassed to back out. When your friends badger you for details, you'll have to be ready with news of your progress...or some creative reasons for stalling.

GET ORGANISED
Make time for writing. Commit  to getting up an hour earlier, or go to bed an hour later. Make a big thing of choosing the tools of your craft. All you need are the basics, but browsing round stationery shelves is encouraging and costs nothing. 

When you get to the stage of submitting your manuscripts to a publisher or agent you'll need a word processor, but don't let the lack of one put you off starting to write.You can make notes on phones and ipads, but nothing beats the anticipation of opening up a brand new notebook and writing those first lines by hand. Make sure you've got something by the side of your bed, ready to jot down the brilliant ideas that pop into your head overnight. Try and keep a dedicated space ready for writing, no matter how tiny. You'll need somewhere to keep your research notes, paperwork and books on the craft of writing. 

DIRTY DRAFTING
It's all too easy to get distracted, trying to decide whether you're a planner working out every detail of your book beforehand, or a pantster who makes it up as they go along. If you're all fired up and ready to go, just write. If your writing time is limited, don't use your creative energy on anything other than getting words down. Set a kitchen timer for thirty minutes, and write as fast as you can until the alarm goes off. I find writing out dialogue is a great way to make real progress, fast. There's nothing like quick results to give you a boost. Your characters come alive and once they are real to you, plot developments suggest themselves. This first, "dirty" draft gets you used to creating text. You then go back later and refine it, adding things like period detail, and descriptions of place. 

I'll be posting more hints and tips over the next few weeks. To make sure you don't miss any of them, sign up at the top of this page!

*If you're all-electric (or gas), just exercise your imagination. The comforting hot drink is pretty much compulsory, though.