Friday, 19 May 2017
Ten Golden Rules
I've just put the finishing touches to the second instalment of my Inspector de Silva Mysteries, Dark Clouds Over Nuala, so, with the hard work done, I'm taking a moment to reflect on what I've learnt over my years of writing.
1 Don't worry about finding gaps in the market, write what you like to read. That way you'll write with interest and passion and it will communicate to your readers.
2 Have a great opening. You have about 15 seconds to sell your book to the potential reader browsing in a bookshop or on Amazon. Give them a great cover, a captivating blurb, a killer first sentence that compels them to read on.
3 Be clear about point of view. Writing in the first person is tempting but remember, your protagonist must be interesting, quirky or both, for the story will be filtered through the prism of their thoughts and words. Also , they will have to be in every scene. Third person is not, of course, a problem in this way, but remember not to "head hop" within a scene or a chapter. If you want to use multiple POVs, take care not to overdo them.
4 Write in the way that suits you. Some people like to plan in great detail; you may not. The thriller writer, Mark Billingham, advocates the "headlight" approach, just plan as far ahead as you can see in the headlights. Personally, I like a plan but I'm always ready to depart from it if I get a better idea.
5 Keep going! I don't advocate a set word limit every day, it can be so stressful that you no longer enjoy your writing, but try and do something, even if it's only a few paragraphs. Writing, like most things, improves with practice.
6 When you've finished your first draft, edit ruthlessly. Your manuscript will probably be too long and much improved by cutting out long descriptions, too many adverbs and adjectives, unnecessary or banal dialogue etc. Don't agonise over detail too much though. I don't advise becoming like Oscar Wilde who claimed to spend a morning deciding to put in in a comma and then the afternoon deciding to take it out! When you're ready ask a trusted friend (or three) to read and comment. If you can afford it, a professional copy edit is a very good idea.
7 Work on dialogue. Good dialogue is so important; your characters will come alive if you know how they speak. Use speech tags as sparingly as possible, really only where the reader would otherwise be confused about who's speaking.
8 Less is more. Don't hammer points home, let your readers use their intelligence and imagination and work some things out for themselves.
9 Don't get hung up on research. Leave it until you know what you'll need to know. Take care though: readers who like historical novels usually have a good grasp of history and crime fans tend to be savvy about their facts, whether it's police procedure or poisons.
10 Above all, show, don't tell. Take the reader with you into the world you're writing about. Make them feel they're involved and waiting breathless to see how things will turn out.
Dark Clouds Over Nuala - An Inspector de Silva Mystery is out on Monday 22nd May 2017 in Kindle (available now to pre-order at getBook.at/darkclouds.)