I’ve written before about how I wrote my first novel and how I wrote my debut, ONE TOUGH COOKIE, which includes some writing advice, but I thought it would be worthwhile to collect my top writing advice here.
Learn the craft
When I started writing, I had no idea what to do, so I searched online and gathered some tips. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, mentions that all you need is to read a lot and write a lot. Practice makes perfect. And that is true. The more I write, the better I get. But I’ve realized that in order to improve, you also need to know about the craft: structure, character arcs, despcription, editing, etc. There’s always more to learn.
After I wrote my first novel, I thought I knew everything there was to know. But when I couldn’t sign with an agent, I decided to seek out more books on the craft. Some did repeat tips I already knew, but some made me see a different perspective or offered a new way of doing things. I struggle with descriptions so I bought a book with tips for that specific issue. In the end, the more you learn, the better a writer you will become.
Read books in your genre
Reading in your genre helps with the craft. You can analyze the books you read and see what they do right and what, in your view, they do wrong. They can inspire you in your own writing. But reading also helps in another way. They can give you insight into the market. What is popular right now? What has been overdone? Don’t only read the books but read the reviews. What do people love? What do they hate? If you have an idea for a book, this research can help you test it. It can also inspire a truly unique idea for a story.
Be true to your voice
Having said that, it’s important to also be true to your vision and your story. Write what you want to read. If the story you want to read has been done, see how you can make it stand out. If it’s too different, but you love it, then don’t be afraid to put it out there. Chances are you will find readers who love it too.
I find my story ideas are really different from what’s out there, but they excite me, and that’s what I love about them-that they’re different. I know people who love my book, and hope to find more like them. I’m sure many people will hate it, but that’s not going to stop me from writing the story I want to tell.
I think getting feedback is one of the most important things a writer should do. Many are afraid of the criticism and don’t want to share their work with others, but there is so much to gain from this. You need to know what works and what doesn’t. Feedback is what will take your work to the next level. Find critique groups through an association or connect with other writers on social media. Like attracts like, and if you share about your manuscript, you will find people who are interested in reading it. Ask to exchange chapters, see how your critique styles click, and go from there.
Put in the work
So now that you got feedback, what are you going to do with it? Is the feedback too daunting to even start? Do you feel like people don’t really understand your work and you don’t want to change it?
I’ve seen this happen to other writers. I’ve critiqued many WIPs, and I tend to be very thorough and detailed. But then I notice that the writers don’t really put in the work to make the necessary changes. They just give up. And that saddens me. Because I know what it’s like, to work on something for years, for the revisions to seem neverending. But I needed to put in that time and that work in order to make the book the best it could be.
You don’t have to make all the changes someone suggests. But if you think they’ll help, put in the work. The rewards are worth it, even if takes longer than you’d expected.
Don’t give up
As I mentioned, it takes time. You will face many roadblocks and wrong turns, but don’t give up. If you love the story you created it, keep working on it. If you don’t know what else to do with it, write another book. Keep trying. Practice makes perfect, after all. Eventually you will succeed.