When people in my life talk to me about writing, they usually say they would love to write a novel, if only they had the time…
I’m not going to sugar-coat it – just sitting down and writing something good is pretty rare.
I have found that it helps to have an idea of what I’m writing. I tend to go for bullet points, little destinations that I’m trying to head towards. My first draft consists of little more than these bullet points, and then, with subsequent drafts, I add more and more layers of detail until I think there’s enough. Then, I start trimming back.
I don’t pretend this is a perfect system, but it’s the one I use.
The best thing in the world is to have a story to tell. Much of my Writing Tips, thus far, have been based on the assumption that you have an idea.
Little detour into my life: When I was a teenager, I had a friend who wanted to be a seamstress. She had a name for the shop she would open. She had an idea of the type of customers who would become her regulars. She could imagine her office, her dressmaker’s dummy, her pin cushions and the room in which she would draw and work.
The problem was: she’d never sewn a button on anything in her life before. She’d never actually wielded a needle and thread nor started a sewing machine deliberately or by accident.
To give her her due, she’d threaded a needle for her mother when she was little, but at this point, she was twenty-two, with no experience, no talent, and no real idea. She just wanted to be able to say she was a seamstress because it sounded glamorous.
Just to be clear, I’m not being mean here. She was offered all kinds of help. Her parents, aunties, uncles, offered to pay for college. She turned it all down, I suspect because the dream was better than the reality could hope to be.
So, let’s say you have an idea…
That really is half the battle, because having perfect grammar and no need for spellcheck is delightful, as long as you have something to say.
So, how to work writing into your everyday life…
When you have a story to tell, it comes along with you wherever you go. You’ll doubtless find yourself thinking about the story as you take a wander round Sainsbury’s or when you’re filling up the car, walking the dog, reminding yourself to pay the gas bill, trying to fall asleep, etc.
Always – always – have a notebook or a note-taking app on your phone. Always – always – have a pen on you.
Write down every pertinent thought. If you’re not sure if it’s a pertinent thought, write it down anyway. If you stick to scraps of paper, sides of cigarette packets or the backs of semi-torn envelopes (like I do. I know. I’m shaking my head at myself, too), you’ll soon find that they get lost, chewed by the puppy, put through the washing machine, thrown away, before you’ve had a chance to assess whether there’s anything there or not.
A lot of the work of writing is thinking but I really believe we can only hold so many thoughts before a few of them start slipping out of focus. Write it all down, even stuff that has nothing to do with this story, and you can come back to it when you’re ready.
Some recommended reading for you:
Book Review – How To Write A Novella In 24 Hours by Andrew Mayne
First published, 2015
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
A short guide, jam-packed with practical tips and advice on how to write quickly and effectively.
Mr. Mayne covers a wide range of issues which face the new writer, including: how to write quickly, how to write anywhere, making book covers yourself, how to deal with writer’s block, how to come up with a title, and how to make sure your self-published book doesn’t look self-published.
The writing style is friendly and self-assured. There are plenty of useful tips here. A lot of common sense ideas but all worth a try. I didn’t much care for the knocking of NaNoWriMo when, within the paragraph, Mr. Mayne suggests a different approach which seems strikingly similar to NaNo.
(For those who don’t know NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month – largely an American phenomenon, the idea is that if you write 1667 words per day, you’ll have a first draft of a 50,000 word novel by the end of a month. This takes place in November, although there’s nothing to say it couldn’t happen in any other month).
My favourite section was ‘100 No (Or Low) Cost Ways To Promote Your Book’. Lots of good ideas here, which I intend to try as soon as poss. A good little guide.