I’m wary of giving tips to write as it’s such a personal process, but these are a few of the things I’ve learned and have worked for me.
As one famous American author yelled when beginning his ‘How to write a novel’ class, ‘what the hell are you all doing here? Why aren’t you at home writing?’
It’s a catch 22 sometimes, easy for him to say, you may think. But he has a point. At some stage you just have to sit down and write. A book, play, or novel won’t write itself. Start somewhere, it’s part of the process, the very act of writing unlocks the magic, and sooner or later it will begin to flow.
2 Go on a reading bender.
Before you begin, go on a reading bender. Get about twenty (a minimum of ten) books of the type you enjoy and would like to write, preferably not all by the same author. Read them, and as you do, study them, ask yourself why they work, why you like the plot, storyline/characters, and why they resonate with you. If you’re really stuck and convinced you can’t do it, go one step further and actually copy out the first few pages (or the whole book if you like). See how the prose looks on the page. Pay attention to how the dialogue is laid out, get a feel for the pace of it. Often this is a big help in breaking through the first time writer’s ‘fear of the blank page’. They’re only words after all.
3 Don’t over think it too much.
By all means plot to your hearts content, tweak and refine your story synopsis but don’t put off the inevitable. Just begin to write, even if you don’t know where it’s going. At some point your characters will take over, and you’ll be racing to keep up with them. If you’re stuck at a plot point, move on and write another scene, often that will release the very block you were worrying about.
4 Make sure you know your characters.
Time and time again this is where writers fall short. Don’t just interview your characters, grill them, know their life history. Make sure you know every tiny detail about what makes them tick or what turns them off, what terrifies them or turns them on. How they felt on their first day at school and on their first date. If you don’t know them, how can your reader? A male friend of mine says the problem with women’s fiction these days is that there hasn’t been a memorable female character since Scarlett O’Hara. Try the test yourself. Can you even remember the name of the girl or women you read in that book last week/month? That’s how important a character is.
5 Don’t give up.
Remember J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times before Harry Potter reached our shelves. And Mary Wellesley was in her 70’s when she wrote her first novel. I believe Irish women are natural writers. We have always had an engaging voice, whether wittily observant, or reflectively intuitive. Be gentle with yourself. Creativity can often be a turbulent process. Oh, and if you read one book about how to do it, make it The Artist’s Way.