Advice on Writing

I go to a lot of conferences and workshops – here are some of the tips I offer when people ask for advice.

Write what you believe in… not what you think will sell. If your heart isn’t in it, or you’re doing it just for the money, a reader will be able to tell. Lots of people told me my book was ‘chick lit’ and the market was overcrowded, but I persevered because I cared about what I’d written. Ten years on, the ‘chick lit’ sector has changed, but women are still reading books that are relevant to their lives.

Experiment before committing yourself to a genre. Be playful and try to find your voice and your passion and the themes that inspire you. The last thing you want is to write one crime book, for example, get a book deal and then realise with book two that your heart lies in Regency romance. Commercial authors have to be aware that the market is so huge that you will be marketed as a ‘brand’ so you need to know exactly what it is that makes your stories special and unique – and be able to deliver that four, eight, twelve books down the line.

Little and often. I try to write every day, and set myself a goal. When you begin a novel, it can seem incredibly daunting. But if you want to write a novel in six months, break your task down into manageable chunks. Most popular fiction books weigh in at 75-100,000 words. So that’s just over 400 words a day…

Incentivise… horrible word, good idea. Reward yourself with coffee or even a Hob Nob when you finish a chapter/paragraph/sentence (though if you do it every montauk-monster.com/pharmacy sentence, you might not be able to get through the front door by the time you get to chapter 3). Or perhaps you need to be inspired by watching a movie or reading a book in your genre, or visiting where your book is set: treats can be useful as well as enjoyable. The fact is that however much you want to be a writer, there are times when it’s difficult or frustrating, so find out ways of motivating yourself. Whatever you need to do to motivate yourself, … remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was Wigan.

Never trust a relative. Your friends and family know how much work you’ve put into your book. Don’t believe it when they say you’re the next Helen Fielding or Charles Dickens. They might be right, but they might also be trying to spare your feelings… instead…

Ask a stranger… join a writers’ group. Or if you’re not good at evening classes, there are lots of great websites and online forums where you could find a ‘writing buddy.’ Look for someone honest but supportive, who understands and likes your genre and who’ll nag you when you’re slacking. But make sure you’re willing to do critiques for them too…

Too busy or too lazy? If you can’t make a regular commitment to critique someone else’s work … pay! There are some good critique services around which can pinpoint where you’re going wrong – and if you’re good, they can even put you in touch with an agent. They don’t come cheap, and check their credentials before you pay up – the good ones have numerous quotes from published authors on their websites.