As we approach the anniversary of the ‘Blog on the Bus’ and as I have now commenced my sixth (yes SIXTH!) novel, I thought it best to reflect on what I have learnt from this whole writing experience (you better pour the milk on your corn flakes, we may be some time).
1. It’s not easy.
Whenever I tell someone new that I am a writer (for that is what I’m pretending to be), the reaction is always the same:
“Wow, that’s amazing! I wish I was smart enough to write a book. I’ve always wanted to write but I just never have the time.”
I usually take the modest-response-option and play down how difficult it is and respond with:
“It’s easier than you think, you just need to give it a go.”
I say this knowing that none of the people I suggest this to will actually do it, so I don’t feel bad about misleading them. The truth is that writing words on a page IS easy, it’s just the rest of the writing experience that requires effort and patience.
For me, writing a structured plot so that I know at least five things that need to happen in each chapter and how they string together, is fundamental. I spend weeks plotting a project. In the early stages all the plotting takes place in my head (usually before I have finished my previous project) and then I start to write it down. The written plot gets revised several times before I start writing.
At this juncture I should point out that I have a full time job, and I am not lucky enough to have the freedom to type all day every day. So, I have to be very disciplined about making the time to write. I do this by going into the office early so that I can type for nearly an hour before my shift starts. Most of the time I will also take a sandwich to work for lunch so that I can have an uninterrupted hour of typing in the middle of the day. And that is it! The rest of my free time is spent with my wonderful family.
Maintaining this level of discipline allows me to complete a first draft of a project within 3 months.
As I said, it’s not easy but if you can be patient and disciplined, it’s achievable.
2. Editing and proof-reading is worth its weight in gold.
When I completed Integration I asked 1 person to proof read it after my attempt. This resulted in an inferior version of my first idea being published (though a revised version is now available). Whilst it received some positive feedback, it received A LOT of criticism for poor spelling and grammar (although I’ve always prided myself on my skill in this area).
What I’ve learned is that the more eyes that look at a project, and provide feedback, the better. I now use 4 people as well as my own feeble attempts to proof-read and edit and so far, I’m pleased that Redemption, Snatched and Shadow Line have been so well received.
3. Building an audience
This is the lesson I’m still learning. Like any author with delusions of grandeur, one day I’d like to see my work in the hands and homes of every living creature, with the sound of checkout chimes ringing in my ears. Until that day (or hell freezes over, whichever comes quicker!), I need to make efforts to share the fruits of my labours with anyone who will listen. I will persevere with this and hope that those who have enjoyed my stories will tell their friends to give them a go.
So what have I learned so far?
> Writing is not a hobby, it’s a way of life.
> It won’t make you rich over night.
> It takes patience and discipline.
> Despite what I have said, it’s still one of the most enjoyable journeys I’ve been on!
If you are working on a project at the moment or if you’re considering starting one: just do it!
Until the next time, happy reading.