Three (plus 3) top tips for writers

Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed on one of my very favourite writing podcasts – So You Want To Be a Writer.

I’ve been listening to the podcast since it began way back in 2014, and always dreamed of being interviewed by Al or Val. Well, now I can say that dream, has come true!

On episode 310 I was featured in the interview section of the podcast where I spoke to Al about my debut novel; The Memories We Hide, indie publishing, and all things writing. It was such a thrill! (You can listen on your favourite podcast app, just search ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’.)

At the end of each interview, Val or Al always ask the writer in residence what their top three tips for writers are. Now, as a dedicated regular listener of the podcast I knew this. But, for some reason, in all the excitement preparing for the interview I neglected to prepare my answers! I know! I can’t believe it either. So many times I’d imagined giving my ‘top three tips’, and now here I was scrambling for what to say.

Of course, listening to the podcast it appears that I was fully prepared, but now you know – it was on the fly! And of course, in hindsight I had the ‘Oh, I wish I’d said this!’ which is the reason for this blog post.

Below are the three tips I gave on the podcast, and three extra ones I wish I’d said!

Tip 1.

Keep Writing.

Boring, I know. But so true. There are so many writers who begin writing a book with all good intentions, but for one reason or another, never finish. Don’t be that writer. Keep writing. No matter what obstacles you face. No matter how bad you think your story is. No matter how much time you think you don’t have. Keep writing. Because, not only will it be an overwhelming sense of deserved accomplishment to finish a novel, but you may actually realise you enjoyed it, and even, that what you wrote was okay – even good! And from there begins the real writing… the re-writing!

Tip 2.

Approach publishing with professionalism and commitment (particularly indie publishing)

I have articulated this much better here on the blog than I did verbally on the podcast, because I’m a much better writer than I am interview subject! But, what I was trying to say, is that once you’ve made the decision to (in my case, indie publish), treat it as a business. You want your book to be the best it can be, which means you need to have a professionally designed cover reflective of your genre, a professionally edited, proofread and formatted manuscript, and you need to be committed to marketing and self-promotion.

My aim is to do this author thing for a very long time, and therefore my career plan is long-term. I am building a business, a community of readers, and I need to respect both those facts but being as professional as I can and putting the best book I can out there.

And even if you are heading down the traditional route, professionalism is of utmost importance. When dealing with agents, publishers, and so on, you want to be professional and approachable. After all, no one wants to work with someone who isn’t!

Tip 3

Keep your ears open

This tip is one that I’ve always wanted to share. I’m a big believer that ideas are out there, you just have to be open to them. Once you are receptive to this notion, it’s amazing how ideas will appear, seemingly out of nowhere. Keep your ears, eyes, and mind open in everything you do. Whether you’re on the commute to work, out walking, waiting in line at the supermarket, reading a novel, reading the newspaper, scrolling through Facebook, looking through old photographs. Anything can ignite a thought in your brain about a story. And when it does, write it down. Immediately. Because if you don’t, it will be gone. (I know from experience). And also, once you write it down, it solidifies the idea and it will begin to germinate in your brain without you even realising it. Writing it down also allows space in your brain for more ideas to come along.

Tip 4

Don’t try and write the perfect story

But shouldn’t we be trying to achieve perfection in our writing I hear you ask? No!

Why? Because there is no such thing.

Yes, you have to write the best story you can, and yes, it has to work as far as a story should work (plot, pacing, narrative, character & story arc etc), but it will never be perfect. You will reach a point in your writing where you can do no more. You’ve rewritten it a thousand times, you’ve been through a rigorous structural edit, you’ve even knuckled down to the finer level of a copy edit, and still you’ll want to do more. But don’t. It will never be perfect. No matter how many times you try and polish it. And it will never be everything to every reader. All art is subjective including books. Not everyone will love your story or even ‘get’ it. And that has to be okay. So stop stressing over it and get on to writing the next one.

Tip 5

Set yourself deadlines

This may not work for everyone, but I find that when I don’t have a deadline I tend to procrastinate and my daily word count slides. Whereas, if I have a deadline to finish a draft to get to my editor by a certain date, I’m motivated to get it done in time (or earlier).

Even if I don’t have a set deadline I tend to set self-imposed ones. And for an indie author this is even more important as you don’t have an agent or publisher waiting.

If you find that setting your own deadlines don’t work. Team up with a writing buddy or an accountability partner. Anyone to whom you can be accountable to. Believe me, it works!

Tip 6

Don’t forget why you write

Often during the writing process and pursuit of publication, you can lose track of why you began writing. Not only does it suck all the joy out of writing, but it also makes writing harder. If you find yourself weighed down by the writing process, remind yourself why you are writing. What was the initial spark or motivation behind wanting to write a book? Is it because you love telling stories? Is it because you have something to say? Or maybe it’s because you want to write the books you love reading? Whatever it is, revisit that feeling. It’s amazing how energized you will feel once you do.

So there you have it. My six tips for writers. Maybe I should save up some more for the next time I’m interviewed!