I’m so unbelievably proud of my mother and my husband who have written their first book, A Strange Way To Die. My mother’s always been a wonderful writer and I’ve been waiting for her to write her first novel for a long time.
While it’s fresh in her mind, I asked her to note down things to think about before putting pen to paper, and I think this is a brilliant insight to look at before taking the plunge!
SO YOU THINK YOU COULD YOU WRITE A BOOK?
- DON’T GIVE UP YOUR DAY JOB… Until the royalty cheques start dropping through your letterbox.
- DON’T FORGET YOUR FAMILY… Writing is a solitary job. Your family may be supportive, but they need your love and attention too (as well as feeding).
- DON’T FORGET TO GRAB YOUR READER BY THE THROAT… Start with a bang and keep your readers turning the pages and wanting to know what happens next. Descriptions and details can come in later.
- DON’T FORGET CONFLICT… No conflict, no story! Your hero/heroine must struggle and overcome the difficulties you make for them. Give them challenges to successfully overcome.
- DON’T WORRY ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE WILL THINK… Let’s face it – people like different things. Write your story the way you want it and accept that you’ll never please everyone.
- DON’T FORGET TO MAKE YOUR HERO/HEROINE LIKEABLE… In order to have happy readers, you need to have a hero/heroine who they’ll like. They need to care what will happen to them, or they’ll lose interest.
- DON’T SHOW IT TO TOO MANY PEOPLE BEFORE IT’S FINISHED… You’ll get hopelessly muddled with a mass of conflicting advice.
- DON’T TALK DOWN TO YOUR READERS… OK, you may be super-clever, but don’t be a show-off when you write. If something adds to the plot and moves the story forward, that’s fine; otherwise, don’t add stuff just to show how bright you are. Readers will spot it a mile off.
- DON’T ASSUME YOUR READERS WON’T SPOT ANY MISTAKES… They will!
- DON’T FORGET THAT RESEARCH IS VITAL… If you think you know a piece of information, check and double-check. Once you make a factual error, your readers will lose confidence in you. NOT a good thing!
- DON’T FORGET THE IMPORTANCE OF NAMES… This is one of the fun parts. Choose all characters names with care. Jake Quinn sounds more like a strong hero than Cecil Rose. Tara Power sounds more like a dashing heroine than Lucy Small… see what I mean?
- DON’T FORGET THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTS… Details are important, so get to know your characters. What sort of watch do they wear? Where do they live? Do they like dogs (or prefer cats)? Are they considerate to older people? Who else is in their family? Make a list of everything you can think of about them, to make them into real
- DON’T WRITE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU KNOW… Serious caution is needed here, if you don’t want to lose friends and/or get sued.
- DON’T FORGET THE CLIFFHANGER… If you end some chapters with an exciting ‘what happens next’, readers tend to have to read ‘just one more bit’ before going to sleep at night.
- DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH OF YOURSELF… Writing is hard work. Take a break and walk round the block.
- NEVER GO OUT WITHOUT A PEN AND PAPER (or digital equivalent)… You never know when inspiration will strike.
- DON’T CONFUSE YOUR READERS, OR BE LAZY WITH THE PLOT… work out what you think will happen and in what order, then change the whole thing around… probably several times. If you’ve lost the plot, so will your readers.
- DON’T FORGET TO SLOW THE PACE DOWN AFTER A BIG/EXCITING SCENE… Readers do get tired and need a break after an exciting scene, before you start building-up to the next one.
- DON’T INTRODUCE MINOR CHARACTERS WHO THEN DISAPPEAR… If someone appears only once, they are useless (unless you killed them off). Readers will wonder where they went… and why they were there in the first place.
- DON’T JUST WRITE DIALOGUE… It’s hard to keep it tight and make it sound natural. Read your dialogue out loud and you’ll know if it works.
- DON’T FORGET TO ADD A SUB-PLOT OR 2… Lots of writers do, and readers seem to enjoy them.
- DON’T GET DISCOURAGED… Sometimes you need to take a step back. Your careful plotting may not always work. Take a break and have a chocolate biscuit.
- DON’T THINK YOUR JOB IS OVER WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR FINAL DRAFT… It isn’t.
- DON’T EXPECT IT WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE A BEST SELLER… OK, it may be, but let’s face it, it’s unlikely, or everyone would be writing.
- DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY IT… writing a novel is a huge challenge and commitment. Research is fascinating and if you’ve kept proper notes, you’ve got a head-start and can use them when you start writing your second novel.
- DON’T FORGET TO… Book yourself a well-deserved holiday, once you’ve finally written ‘THE END’.