About…

I am a corporate person, who used writing both as a hobby and a great way to relieve stress (writing about horrible things happening to deserving people). Redundancy gave me the opportunity to write more seriously and I took my first steps into publishing with two collections of short stories. Then, along came A Big Idea which became my novel, He’s Gone.

Everyone has their own way of writing. What worked for me may not work for you but these are the top three things that helped me finish and edit my novel.

  1. A plan. Yes, I need a plan. However sad it sounds, you can’t beat a spreadsheet. Before starting to write, I had a summary of the ending and a rough breakdown of what happened in each chapter. That’s not to say I stuck to it rigidly because along the way, some bits of the story expanded, contracted and mutated. Having the skeleton also allowed me to check for plot holes and to make the most of every time to write. I also make sure I record how much I write each day. It’s very motivating seeing the word count go up every day (or down, if you’re editing). There are specialist writing planning tools around – I’ve always just used a spreadsheet.
2. A routine. I commute. That means getting onto a train every day. I’m lucky, I can choose my train so I get a seat and as soon as I sit down, I switch on my computer and start typing. In an hour’s journey, I can get a good chunk down, say 500 words and there’s the satisfying feeling of having achieved something before the day has really started.
3. A writing group. There was one problem with all of these words I was writing – no one was reading them. Redundancy gave me the opportunity to join a local writing group. This was a revelation: for the first time, I could discuss problems around how to write something with people who understood. They gave me feedback on my work and I learned how words that I thought were clear could have a multitude of interpretations. Plus, the encouragement and the regular meetings helped keep me writing. This has been the single most important thing in improving my writing. To find a writing group near you, try your local library or look here https://www.writers-online.co.uk/Writers-Groups/.

Other useful places…

There are lots of people willing to give you writing advice and books full of how to write, publish and promote your writing. In fact, if you read all of it, you’d never get any writing done. Some other places I’ve found useful are below.Twitter. Twitter is full of literary folk and the over-riding feeling I get is of support and encouragement. You can follow authors (established and aspiring), agents, publishers and get the latest industry information as it happens. Some good hashtags to explore:
#writing and #amwriting for aspiring authors
#askagent where agents answer your publishing queries – not for pitching novels
#mswl where agents talk about what they want to see in their inboxes

 

Courses. There are numerous courses on offer from individual sessions, to degrees and postgraduate qualifications in writing. There are also retreats (in some swanky places) where you can sun yourself while you write. Before considering a course, consider very carefully what you want to get out of it: a serious multi-part course really needs a good idea behind it before you begin. When I was about a third of the way through my novel, I did the Curtis Brown three month online novel-writing course (http://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/).  I was taught by the excellent Chris Wakling and another big benefit is that I now have an online support group of like-minded people who are a constant source of advice and support as we all push for publication.

 

Talks. I’ve been to a number of talks. Some have been inspirational, seeing me taking copious notes and rushing home to change my novel. Some have been rather ho-hum, with the speaker just giving out generalities. Either way, you’ll be in room full of other writers, which is always a good thing and it’s always worth establishing some new contacts. I’d recommend picking talks that address a specific area you want to know about and checking out the speaker carefully in advance to see what they have said before and whether this looks like the sort of thing you want. https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/writing_calendar/browse

 

Competitions. Of all the aspiring authors I know who got agents, most won a competition first. I don’t think it’s obligatory but anything you can do to stand out is positive. Some competitions are more prestigious than others (and charge higher fees) but also attract more entries. Writing to a prompt can be a good break from a novel but entering competitions could also become a full-time occupation, if you’re not careful. One list of upcoming competitions is here http://www.creativewritingink.co.uk/writing-competitions/

 

Reading. For many years, I didn’t read (other than work reports, text books and serious magazines). Another joy of not working for a period was a chance to read fiction. Now, I read anything I can get my hands on and it’s been a huge help to my fiction. Then someone introduced me to Goodreads. Although the reviewing element is interesting, I’ve become quite interested in seeing what I’ve read (because yes, I have done the thing where I’ve bought a book, then realised halfway through that I’d already read it). Come and find me on Goodreads here

 

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