Tips For Writers - Week 1

Posted on 8th August, 2019

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

W Somerset Maugham


Writers are always seeking advice and there is an abundance of it out there – websites, blogs, workshops, courses, magazines and How To books. Writers are always on the look-out for ideas that will help them improve their craft. When you find a practice that works for you, it becomes one of your personal writing rules.


Back in 2016, I ran a series of blogs called It Works For Me, in which I invited writer friends to share their personal writing rules with the rest of us. Over the next few weeks, I am going to revisit some of those rules and post them here for writers who missed the series first time round and especially for new writers who are looking for some support.


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Let’s start with Jan Baynham, who has recently signed a three-book deal with Ruby Fiction. Her debut novel, Whispering Olive Trees, will be published next year.


Write first, edit later:

This was very hard for me to learn but it worked when I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time. My novel-in-progress was taking forever and whenever I started writing, I'd go back and change things. Once I adopted this rule, the story seemed to flow and I was able to immerse myself in the book, get to know my characters and thoroughly enjoy the process of writing. I may have made editing harder but unless there's a story to edit, I won't know! 

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Linda Huber writes psychological suspense novels under her own name and romance novels as Melina Huber.


Keep a list of over-used words and expressions.
You know, things like: just, that, really, only, actually, surely etc etc. My characters also have a terrible habit of wincing, frowning, sighing, raising their eyebrows, and gripping each other’s elbows… They pull faces quite a lot too. I don’t worry about this while I’m writing, but when the first draft is finished I go back and check through the list – easy with the ‘find’ function on Word. 


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Kate Field writes contemporary romance novels. Her debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings,won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award.


Character Names Are Crucial

I can’t start writing until I know the full names of the main characters – and they have to be the right names. I once tried to write a short story and struggled to move past the first page. Changing the name of the heroine solved the problem: she took on a new identity with her new name, and I understood where her story needed to go.


I spend a long time mulling over names. I usually start by looking on the internet at the most popular baby names for the years around which the character was born. Other good sources are TV credits, newspapers and magazines. 


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Jen Gilroy is the Canadian author of the Firefly Lake trilogy. Her latest novel, The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls, will be published in October.


Take small steps towards a big goal


I’ve wanted to be a published author since childhood, but it was only in February 2009 that I started working seriously towards that goal, and set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals along the way.


It took six and a half years, multiple manuscripts, and numerous rejections before my agent called to tell me that she’d sold The Cottage at Firefly Lake. Although I persevered to reach my big goal, I got there in part because I set a multitude of small goals. Those small steps in my writing journey included submitting manuscripts each year to the RNA NWS for critique, entering writing contests, and becoming active on Twitter to connect with other writers. 


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I hope you have enjoyed this insight into what makes these writers tick and maybe you’ve found a writing tip that strikes a chord with you. If you have, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you – and so would Jan, Linda, Kate and Jen.



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Comments (1)

As I was away for much of August, I'm very behind in reading your blog, Susanna, but I do appreciate you including me in this post. I enjoyed taking part in this series and learning from the other authors you featured, too.