On Writing

Below are some thoughts on my writing process, but if you'd like to know why I became an Indie Author see: Going Indie...

I’m thinking of being a writer.  Where do I start?

Start with something that means something to you, or makes you sad, happy, angry, frustrated, or all of them thrown together.  Connecting to these kinds of emotions can trigger all sorts of creative thoughts in how you want to express them.  But writing is no different from anything else in life – if you don’t enjoy the process, the step-by-step bits, then it probably won’t work for you.  What I would say is that you’re not going to know until you try, so try, as you have nothing to lose, and the best thing about writing is that it is free to do!

I don’t have the confidence to start writing a novel?

That’s okay, writing can be daunting and remember nobody is born with confidence so don’t worry. Confidence is something you acquire by doing – demonstrated performance.  Think of anything that you are confident in right now and recall the steps you took to get there. Whatever that is for you, I bet you weren’t good at it when you started and therefore weren’t confident, but you must have kept going. If there is a secret when it comes to confidence and writing it is to really enjoy the story you want to tell. Apart from it being a driving force, if you love your idea, then others will love it too, because they can sense your passion, and that should give you the drive to start.  

How do I find my voice?

At the beginning, I wouldn’t worry too much about finding your voice, as this will only bog you down and zap your creative flow. I would focus on being honest about the subject/story you want to write, and if you start from a point of authenticity your voice will naturally follow. Also, don't try to be clever or to copy a particular style as this will hinder you more. Concentrate on what excites you and be honest with how you express it.  If you do these things at the beginning, you will surprise yourself, and your writing voice will find you.

How do you get ideas?

Stephen King said something along the lines of a good story is when two ideas collide. I like this concept and it is a rule I tend to follow. I wanted to write something about orphans and then I had this idea of the world split into Secular and Non-Secular Quadrants that came to me after I read the article on the teenager who survived the Paris attacks. I then asked myself what would happen if one of the orphan crossed over to another Quadrant when they weren’t supposed to? Boom. The two ideas had collided in my mind. Orphans/ Secular vs Non-Secular Worlds. This ultimately may not work for you, but it is a good place to start. Try it. What two ideas can you make collide with each other to generate a new idea that could lead into a story?  

I’m scared what people will say about my work?

Every writer feels this and it never goes away, so it is a problem you have to learn to lean into. You have to accept that's how you will feel. It is also true that you can never please everyone, but if you write from a point of honesty then it will always connect with someone. Writing to ‘please’ is a huge mistake and this is when your writing won’t work. I hate to admit it, but I think I’ve made that mistake in the past. As mentioned, just be honest with yourself and you'll be surprised at how many problems it fixes.  

In life, too!

What is the best advice you can give a new writer?

This is the advice I give myself. Know your ending before you start. Your ending might change and that is okay, but it gives you a focal point to work towards and you should definitely know this before you write your first word. Most first-time writers run out of steam about a quarter of the way in and it is usually because they’ve become lost in their own story. They became lost because they didn’t know where to go next or how it was going to end. They are stuck in their own rabbit hole.

I’ve written my first manuscript.  Will you read it and give advice? 

As much as I would like to help, I just don’t have the time, plus I have to work my own ideas, so I’m going to have to say no. There are plenty of people out there who can help and who are probably better at unbiased criticism than I would be, anyway.

What books do you recommend on writing?

There are many good books out there, but I would avoid any material that says How to Write a Blockbuster (or something similar). It is always worth checking who wrote the book and seeing if their CV is relevant to what you want to write. I know all writers say read, read and read some more, which is true, but remember to read and analyse.  Ask yourself what you liked about the book/ chapter/ paragraph? What didn’t you like? How did the author introduce the main character? Do you think you could do it better and, if so, how? I would also add that you should read plays and screenplays. You can get many free on-line. These will teach you more about dialogue and how to construct dialogue then reading any How to write Books ever will. Finally, it is also very important to read outside of what you want to write. Every genre has something to teach a keen writer, plus it enables you to bring in other ideas you might not have thought about.

What’s the best time to write?

For me there isn’t. You have to find what works for you and your lifestyle. Personally, I write when I feel like it. That might be in the morning, night or afternoon. Once I start, I don’t word count, but I think in terms of chapters. Chapters are the building blocks of a book, but they are also mini-books within themselves – having a beginning, middle and end – usually an ending with a cliff-hanger. Also, finishing a chapter gives me a sense of achievement, so I can finish my writing session on a high, looking forward to writing the next mini-instalment or chapter at my next sitting. The most important element is consistency. A little bit each day will have your first draft finished before you know it. Long sessions can tire you out and drain you of your enthusiasm. Keep it short and productive. It's how athletes train!

What writers do you recommend to read?

I love a good story and anything that takes me to another place will always be a current favourite – I’m fickle, like that.  As mentioned, I think it is important to read outside of the genre you are interested in writing as it expands your horizons. One of my favourite writers is Don Wilson, but he writes hard hitting books. In YA, I’ve recently read Red Rising Series by Pierce Brown. One of my all-time favourite books is The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. It was originally published in 1844 as a series. Oh, nearly forgot, I loved the original Jaws by Peter Benchley.

How do I deal with rejection?

Rejection isn’t unique to being a writer yet it seems to get more attention in the writing community than other areas of human interaction. Remember, too, that you as an individual reject things all day long, as well. If you didn’t, you would get swamped by life. I would also say it is important to define the rejection. Don’t lump them all into the same basket. Who is rejecting you and why? What are their motivations and were there any comments? Can you learn from a particular rejection? If it is your readers who are rejecting you then perhaps you’re not listening to them, or giving them what they want? 

As long as you’re writing from your true self, analysing what works and what doesn’t, along with soliciting solid feedback from people you trust, you will get better. And if you tie that into wanting to improve at every opportunity, as well as setting your own standards, rejection will fade, because your books will work and your audience will find you.

Should I outline my story or free flow?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, and you have to discover what works for you. I do a combination of both. I make over-arching notes about the characters, themes, general structure of the story, but then I let my creative side take over and guide me. I do this because, as mentioned, I know my ending, so I can trust I’m staying true to my ideas without getting lost in blind writing alleys. This way also lets my creative side live in the moment.

How much research should I do?

That very much depends on the topic you are writing about, but it is not unusually to have to allocate some research time in any new project. I like to research, but only so much. I don't want to get obsessed by it, or worse let it hinder the work.  

Research for me has two core purposes:

  1. I want to make sure I get my facts right, and

  2. I use it to trigger my imagination (this is the important one)

A good trick to remember is once you've learn something new and relevant from your research ask yourself how you can use it in a dramatic way to further the story. I often remind myself that research is research and drama is drama. They are not the same thing, although some writers do mix them up. Also, think how you can twist the facts to make your story work even better. This is much easier to do in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Dystopian type books and is partly why I wrote The Denounced. The key point is to research your topic, but not to let it get in the way of your fiction writing.  The research is to feed your imagination.

Do you have any words of wisdom to aspiring writers?

I don’t like magical quotes but I would say do your best to finish your first draft. Once you do you then have a product; something tangible you can see and feel and hold. There is a tremendous power in this, or there is for me, anyway.

And finally...

The above were just some thoughts and if they've helped that's great, but there is plenty of wonderful advice out there from other writers and professionals in the business, so do keep looking and learning if you're new to writing.

I hope my few thoughts helped and thank you for taking the time to read this page.