We invited The Novelry to post some of their top writing tips and introduce themselves to our members as another resource for writers seeking publication. If you're interested in learning more about their services, there are links at the end of the post.
1. Make mistakes – So many writers delay plunging into their first draft, afraid that what they produce won’t live up to their expectations. The truth is every writer is afraid, and those who aren’t are probably no good. Give yourself permission and time to make mistakes so you can find your story. The more you go through this process, the more likely you are to write the story you’re best placed to write.
2. Story, story, story – When writing, the most important question to ask yourself is how does this (place, person, event) serve the story? Are you clinging to this sentence because it contains your best-crafted metaphor, rather than because it drives the narrative forward? Story is all about what your main character wants and the problem or dilemma they’re facing. Keep connecting back to this and, when you aren’t, be prepared to kill your darlings.
3. Find your ‘Golden Hour’ – To be able to get your writing into shape, time is vital. We recommend carving out an hour for your writing every day. Get up with a coffee and spend time in your happy place. Doodle, lament, journal, conspire, on the beach, but keep that affair with your writing alive and kicking. You will be amazed by how much you produce as a result.
4. Know what your character WANTS – As Kurt Vonnegut said, ‘Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water’.’ Dig into your characters' desires but don’t make it easy for them to get. Your main character needs to be active, give them agency. There is nothing more irritating than a character who passively allows everything to fall into their lap. We need a character to root for and that comes in their struggles. By the end of the novel, they may not get what they want, but do they get what they need?
5. Choose a ‘Hero Book’ – We have a comprehensive list of Hero Books we recommend to our authors, a diverse list of great reads that span over genres to use as inspiration. Choose a great book and dip into it during the drafting process for ten minutes a day. You are not aiming to emulate or make your work sound like anyone else’s, the aim is to see how the greats dealt with the elements of craft you might be struggling with e.g. plot reveals, dialogue, how to deal with that pesky mid-point.
6. Don’t sweat the word count – At The Novelry we ask you to start small, just 250 words on the first day you start writing. Then 500 words the next day. It’s those small steps that will take you from base camp and scaling up that story mountain. Before you know it, you’ll be rock-climbing like a pro at 1,000 words a day…or not. The point is to take your time, find what works for you and to not get caught up on the numbers but the story.
7. Never share a first draft with ANYONE – Ok, it’s tempting. You’ve just written that really great opening that you’ve got all polished up and, for the first time ever, you feel you’ve got this writing thing down. Perhaps your close friend, sibling, or perhaps even partner, could have a quick look and give you some notes? Don’t do it! At this stage, we use tutors to help guide writers on their story plan and advise on writing dilemmas but recommend not getting feedback on written work until draft two. The first draft is a precious seedling, it needs time and nourishment to help it grow. The last thing it needs is someone’s big, grubby opinions stamping all over it.
8. Do not be mean to yourself – Remember the writing whirlwind I described earlier? When you’re not on those writing highs, it’s easy to be hard on yourself, especially when things aren’t going to plan. We have a series of blogs to help writers get through the slumps. You can find pieces on motivation, dealing with the dreaded imposter syndrome as well as a number of Q&A’s from bestselling authors on our website. But for now, remember to be yourself only more so. Don’t worry about the market, it moves quickly, and publishing moves slowly. Write the book you want to write and the book you want to read.
9. Find the emotional heart of your story – What do you remember from books? The paragraphs of text or the great emotional moments? Look for transfigurative moments in your novel. It might be a visual or a line of dialogue. The emotional heart might not be in your head but you have always had it in your heart. It is what you believe in more strongly than reason. Put this at the centre of your story. Remember: if you care, your reader will care.
10. Tools not rules – If the tips above don’t work for you, feel free to discard! Our mantra is ‘tools not rules’. Writing is a craft, it is as personal and unique as the numerous books produced from it. Our courses, tutors, and editors advise our writers but we do not dictate. This is your dream, your time, your writing. No one else can do it but you (though a few friendly faces with words of wisdom along the way sure does help).
The Novelry is the worldwide specialist school offering novel writing courses dedicated to helping aspiring authors get published. Visit www.thenovelry.com to find out more.