Welcome to my very first blog post of 2012, everyone. And what better way to start the New Year than by paying it forward?
Of course, as a writer, the best way for me to do this is to pass on some writerly advice; the three top tips that were given to me when I began my own journey into the world of writing – tips that I still bear in mind to this day.
So for all you new writers out there I hope you find these pointers as useful as I did… and for those of you who’ve heard it all before, please feel free to comment with your own pieces of advice and thanks in advance.
So, here goes:
1. Write about what you know
This is a phrase experienced authors often say to those starting out. After all, for any budding writer, with so much to learn and develop already, choosing a setting that’s familiar certainly makes sense.
I mean, who knows the comings and goings of a Police station more than someone who actually works there? And having the heads up on the types of characters that inhabit it, a knowledge of the legal jargon and even the banter taking place within, well this doesn’t just give a new writer’s writing an automatic credibility, it allows the author to concentrate more on honing their craft, as opposed to having to do loads of research.
Of course, with this example it’s easy to assume I’m talking about a murder/mystery or detective story here, but remember love and horror stories etc could just as easily unfold in a setting like this, in much the same way as they could any other.
2. Make every word count
Every word a writer writes has to either develop character, move the story forward in some way or better still, do both at the same time. Something new writers often struggle to get to grips with.
So again, let me give you an example:
Before Mrs. Housewife set about the cleaning the bathroom, she put the bottle of bleach to her nose and took a moment to enjoy the smell of its contents.
Now obviously Mrs. Housewife is an extremely houseproud woman – a commendable characteristic in anyone’s book (excuse the pun). But if the author is simply telling us this because the poor woman just likes the smell of bleach and that’s that, then such words shouldn’t really be included.
However, if it’s later revealed that Mrs. Housewife is, in fact, suffering from OCD, a condition that threatens to destroy both her life and her relationships if she doesn’t eventually seek help, then they most definitely should. Similarly, if we ultimately discover that Mrs. Housewife is, in fact, some serial husband killer who likes to poison her victims with household products, then once again, it’s a good characteristic to include.
3. Read your competition
Obviously best selling books are best sellers for a reason. And reading our competition can help us fathom out what that reason is.
Of course, I’m not suggesting new writers do this in order to copy, imitate or plagarise in any way, but the technical skills these authors use may well teach us a thing or two – skills that once identified, we can then incorporate into our own work.
So in this instance, it not just a case of reading per se, it’s more a case of disecting; working out how the author’s characters are developed, when the subtle reveals are coming into the play, looking at the book’s pacing and breaking down the various plot points etc…
And whilst this might feel more like something done in an English Literature class at school, it’s definitely worth the effort considering we become all the better writers for it.