Top Tips for Writing

Here's tips I've gathered over time from other writers and have found useful. They may offer a nugget of help to you too.

1.Write every day. Something, anything! Especially when you don't know what to write, or you're not feeling it. Some days are easier than others when words will flow, the jigsaw fits together and you haven't lost the plot (pun intended). Hey presto, you have a satisfying piece of prose before you! Congratulate yourself, for on other days it can be a struggle of monumental proportions. If you could see me at those times, I'm as likely to be gazing out the window over at the hill opposite, wondering how the cows stay upright and don't roll over, as they chew the grass, meandering downhill. Or I'm cleaning the bathroom. Baking a cake. Social Media. Catching up on those saved TV programmes - don't do it! Don't procrastinate! Just get something down, 500 words are okay, just get it down. Later you can always change it, edit it, whatever. You never know, you might just get those juices flowing!

2. Read widely - all the time. The more you read, the better your own writing will be. Reading and writing go hand it hand. The trick is finding the balance, so one option doesn't put the other in the shade.

3. Develop a writing routine, rituals even, but don't get OCD over it. You don't have to, but I like to have nice shiny new notebooks and nice pens (in different colours) to get started on new projects (what was I saying about OCD)? When I'm noodling, musing over plot, characters and storyline I like activity around me - seems to spark my imagination. Notebook in hand, I'll go sit in a cafe, the bench overlooking the sea, maybe in the attic with music on the go (rock usually, something to get the blood going). When I'm getting serious, getting that first (and subsequent) draft down on metaphorical paper, then it has to be silence, or as near as I can get it. Now that I'm writing full time, I've reverted to being a night owl. Usually, but not always, writing late in the evening, reviewing progress the next morning. Find a time that suits you best, or at least, that works around everything else. Little and often is better than not at all.

4. Keep a note book with you at all times! Why? Because you will forget that gem of an overheard conversation. That cracker of an incident. Or that delicious thought, turn of phrase that pops into your head unannounced that will so make all the difference! You won't remember it for later, and you'll be kicking yourself instead of getting on with the proper work of writing. Your friends think you're crazy anyway so won't notice your notebook and scribblings. Also, keep a notebook by your bed to note your dreams. Seriously.

5. Find a writers group with people you like, but more importantly, that you trust and won't blow smoke when you share your work. Otherwise known as, telling it as it is, good and bad. Let me tell you now, if you're a wuss, get over yourself! Constructive criticism can be hard to take, but take it you must, if you want to improve your craft that is. If you can't take criticism from a writer friend, being a diva is not going to help you, and you won't survive in the publishing world! Mind you, I've had nearly 40 years in the health service to develop a backbone and broad shoulders. Having said that, yes I can be that sensitive flower too - just know when to show it (and who to).

6. You will have ups and downs as a writer because its a fact of life! Its hard when your book is not going well, you're being rejected blah blah! This is where writer friends are handy to have - they 'get it' - and will offer a friendly shoulder to cry on. Non writer friends on the sidelines will yell, "of course you can do it!" which is just what you need to hear, and boosts your ego to get going again. But don't over do it - everyone has their limits! Find your self-belief and muster it - regardless! As writers we walk a tightrope of arrogance (of course people will want to hear about my wonderful story )! To, periods of complete and utter despair of having no ability to write at all. It's part of the creative process.

7. Talking of creative process, don't compare yourself to other writers. As in everything else in life, there will be writers far better than you, and others who are not so good. Admire other writers for their ability in their craft, turn of phrase, or whatever it is, but don't get yourself in knots over it. We all have a place to be.

8. Early on, find a way of being able to answer the inevitable question, "so what have you had published then?" Because as soon as you wriggle out of your writers cocoon you will be asked - a lot. The answer for a long time is going to be no! Of course if you ARE published, then its easy peasy! Otherwise, depending on who I might be talking to, I'll say no more, or, I'll explain where I am on my journey (yes it is a journey, don't cringe)! Either way it can be exhausting (remember that thick skin).

9. Changing the setting of where you write can be an eye opener, a stimulant for your senses, it will make you happy. Do it if you can. I try to disappear once a year to my secret place. No I'm not telling you where because it won't then be a secret, will it!

10.That notebook I mentioned? Writers are people watchers. Eavesdroppers of conversation and behaviour. Noter of anecdotes. What I would say though is do not write about people you know, in your life - unless you're writing a biography of course - you're asking for trouble. Just don't do it.

What you can do, is take inspiration without making it obvious as to who they might be in your story. My characters in Baby Be Mine are figments of my imagination, but one or two are strangers I've observed on the Tube for example, but not spoken to or know them personally in any way. As a writer, you attribute behaviours or snippets of conversation. You observe how people behave in certain situations, for example, and transfer the ideas and mannerisms to your characters to bring them alive.

11. Enter writing competitions. Hone your skills, your craft. You never know, your work might be read by someone who likes your work and offers to take it further. You might not win the competition, but it may open doors. I've known it to happen.

12. Like it or not, even an unpublished writer needs a social platform of some description. I'm a fine one to talk as I'm late to this particular party. Do it! Get to know other writers on social media. Put yourself out there in a genuine way, so that people get to know who you are. When you are ready to do the rounds of Agents, you will have something to show yourself off with.

13.Lastly, lets not forget the important thing for when the time is right: make sure your manuscript (your novel or whatever it might be) is ready to be seen in the publishing world. Check the basics, grammar, spelling mistakes and so on. Make sure your manuscript is as presentable as it can possibly be. Oh, and make sure its completed before you start sending out to Agents (for submissions check individual websites - their criteria may well be different for each agent). If you're lucky enough to get a bite and they ask for your completed manuscript and it isn't ready, well the best you'll be is unprofessional, and that's not a great look.

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