I was speaking to someone who is aspiring to write a novel of their own. They asked me questions and told me the challenges they are facing. Now, I’m no expert by any means and the only success I have to show is the mere fact that I finished my book. However, I still tried my best to give advice and pointers that may help them get to the finish line.
1. WRITE (and don’t stop)
The first and most important thing is pretty obvious. My biggest problem I had to overcome was writing a chapter, reading it over and being dissatisfied with it then starting for scratch. Eventually, I sat down and spent a week typing up “word vomit” till I reached the end. I typed and typed without looking back. Granted barely 5% of that original story made it to the final draft but hey, I at least hurdled past that right?
1.5. (sneaking this in) READ!
Read, read, read. Take books that are similar to the genre you’re writing in and read. I came across lovely books that really inspired me and others that I learned “what not to do” from. Reading will help you stay motivated and maintain your tone.
Now take this step and repeat.
2. Redraft, Rewrite and Repeat
I took that first draft and used it as the skeleton. My second draft only made it about half way through the story before I had one of those “aha!” moments and started hacking away at it… which brings us to number 3.
3. Less is more so hack away!
I had this crazy back story for every character and also scenarios I was not familiar with (i.e. Liam’s career). All this ambition could possibly be detrimental to a story. Now unless you’re writing a story like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter… things don’t need to get cray. Yes, i said cray.
4. Start a blog.
First of all this is something that will help if you plan on publishing. Start a blog early and write down your process, vent, bitch, rant -whatever. You’ll (hopefully) gather some followers and meet people who are in the same boat you are. Also, this will keep you writing!
5. Live it and LOVE it.
Okay, I don’t mean literally. Don’t take your book about slaying dragons and start running down your street with a sword. I mean believe in your book and keep it in your mind often. This is most likely something you can’t help anyway but I know that when I first started, it was all I could think about. I would be driving and have to pull over to write something down… this also brings me to…
6. Have a notepad/journal handy
If you’re technologically savvy then use your notepad in your smart phone or iPad- either way, keep it close by. Those ideas will flow out of your brain at unexpected times and you can’t trust yourself to remember everything for when you finally sit down and write.
7. Get beta-readers
Sure you can ask your significant other or your closest friends but sometimes you need outside opinion. Someone who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings if they need to. Most importantly, someone who is your target audience and is willing to put the effort into giving you their two cents. Their opinions and advice may surprise you!
Okay I know this step should have been like #1 or something but for me it wasn’t. Who knows if that’s bad or not but my biggest concern was getting the story down. Now my research wasn’t as extensive as most – I had to look up geographical information since I haven’t been to New York and also look up British slang since one of my characters is a Brit. Other than that I also researched publishing options, read up on other author’s processes and followed blogs.
9. Take breaks
Over exhausting your brain is not good. I might be a hypocrite when it comes to this but rest is important. I tend to write a lot at night and eventually the words just blur together. There are times when you just need to walk away and come back later.
10. Find support.
I found it easier to stay motivated when others were excited about the book. I loved being asked, “how is your book going?” it made me want to write more so that one day I could answer them with “It’s published!” – Some may not be lucky enough to have a ton of support from friends and family… hell, my family still thinks this is some faze or something… but you can find support online.
11. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
I’m not a social butterfly or anything but I had to break out of my shell a little. I chatted with Jay Crownover when she did a live-chat. I asked about publishing and her process in writing. I’ve emailed writers, editors and followed blogs. Not only that but when I meet someone who is from New York, I ask them about the city. There’s nothing like personal experience to give your book life.
12. Stay honest but know your audience.
Hmm so this may not be in the right order but I think this is a good note to leave off on. The first part is to stay honest -now what this means to me is to put your heart and soul into whatever you do. Even if your book is a fantasy or science fiction, the things that readers will be drawn to are the relatable moments. The parts that draw emotion usually mean you yourself have felt that pain/happiness/anger too.
The second part, as much as some people hate to admit it, is to know your audience. I’ve heard people say “Write for yourself” and yeah I somewhat agree but you also need to know your audience. If I just wrote for myself, I don’t think I’d be gathering beta readers or working hard to publish. There’s a reason why “best selling” books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey (horribly written or not) went viral… readers as a whole saw something in those stories.
There you have it. I’m sure there is more to this than the 12 I’ve written down but I was rather unprepared for this post. I hope I helped a little and I wish anyone who is writing a novel the best of luck! The adventure of writing can sometimes be difficult but it has been one an exciting chapter of my life… I hope to continue on this journey.