It is now two years since I wrote my debut novel, “Johari’s Window.” I look back and smile when I realize how much I learned from my apprenticeship!
For ease of reading, here are some points – Do’s and Don’t s :
1) Do get something down on paper. I know this sounds obvious, but procrastination is not preparation. I begin by “writing in my head” and jotting things down – just in note form to begin with. You can always rewrite, and rewrite, till you have written your best possible polished version.
2) Do write about what you know. However, if your work is fiction, go on an adventure with it, too! Do the research, unless you have direct experiences you can write fiction about.
All kinds of things come under the rubric of “Research.” The Internet makes it relatively easy to gather information, as do libraries. Ask people, and organizations, for information, if need be.
You may be tempted to visit a location, for example, but almost as good, and perhaps a more cost-effective method, is to ask someone who lives there, contact travel firms or search online.
3) Be selective. Don’t be tempted to write everything into your book that you know! Remember, what you include in your book has to be there for a reason – don’t pad out your best writing with “filler” or “waffle.”
4) Do read your work out loud. I find this useful when I want to choose between two versions of the same idea. Which words and phrasing sound easy on the ear? Which is the better choice? Your ears will tell you!
5) Use memory devices, such as post-it notes or flashcards, to help you organize, and bring together all the different aspects of your work.
I find it useful to use color codes, with highlighter pens, or different color post-it notes.
Even if you are tidy, be prepared for creative chaos! Floors are good for “filing” if you run out of desk-space, and they are good for “doing jigsaws” as you piece your book together!
6) Do ask yourself, at intervals, whether what you write is what you want to say. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but your book will be read by many people. Make sure what you write is clear. Do not be afraid to use a wide range of vocabulary but be precise in your selection.
Make sure you “signpost” the reader when you give him/her choices of interpretation in characterization or the story-line, too. On the other hand, ambiguity in fiction is sometimes a good device when intended!
7) Consider writing the ending first of all. Then, you know where you are going, and can make adjustments to it, as you go along with your story.
8) Pay particular attention to the opening sentence, and the beginning of your book. The first sentence is what “hooks” the reader. Go straight to the important point of your book, at the very beginning. This can be a character, (which can be a place,) or some kind of question that summons an answer, for example. Create atmosphere and suspense. Make it “unputdownable.
9) Do scrutinize your manuscript thoroughly, when you feel it is ready. All of the book, should have a “holistic” quality, when it is finished, ready to be published. Is the writing even, and the voice consistent? Have you used parallel and opposition to best possible effect? Do your characters sparkle on the page? Are they believable? Are you clear about the themes in your book? They should be woven carefully throughout your book, like a tapestry.
10) Do be ruthless in cutting out anything you don’t like or which doesn’t work. You will most probably do a lot of this! The process is akin to a sculptor, who chips away at everything until he has a masterpiece! Aim to write over the word limit you need, and then, when you do the final “cut,” you are more likely to meet the word limit with your revised final version.
11) Don’t do your own final editing! Don’t, Don’t, Don’t! O.K?
12) Don’t depend on friends and family to make judgments about the merits of your work! Even if they “know” you are a good writer, and provide much-needed moral support, don’t let them sidetrack you or distract you from your purpose. Make writing your priority, and keep your feet firmly on the ground. It’s going to be a long haul, unless you are very lucky!
13) Do remain positive, and give yourself breaks away from the computer, and writing, to do something completely different. Your life is good fuel for your job as a writer, and the more experiences you have, the more raw material you will have to draw on.
14) Do you see your first novel as an apprenticeship? If you do, whatever the outcome, you will not be disappointed. Dedicate yourself to your craft, and your growth as a writer will be a reward in itself – perhaps the greatest reward in your lifetime!
Copyright Suzy Davies, 26/06/2017. All Rights Reserved. No Copying.