I would like to welcome Samantha Hayes, who has some excellent advice for aspiring authors.
My Top 10 Writing Tips by Samantha Hayes
I know what it feels like to have a story or novel burning away inside you, yet somehow it just won’t come out onto the page the way you want, let alone turn into a full-length novel. So I thought I’d compose a list of tips to help aspiring writers along their journey. I’ve done all of these things myself, so it’s proof they work! Some may be obvious, but they’re still really, really important – and they’re in no particular order. Happy writing!
1) You're going to need support on the long journey to publication, so it's a great idea to join a writing group or club. You'll meet like-minded people who understand your frustrations, and who will also congratulate you on your successes. This may be online or 'in real life', but either way, it will help keep the focus.
2) Read the type of books you want to write. These should be books that inspire you, excite you, throw fuel on your literary fire. Don't copy or emulate, but innovate. And all the while read, read, read in your chosen genre.
3) Following on from above, don't write what you know, rather write what you love. There's a difference. If you're excited by your writing, it will shine through and your readers will stick with you to the end.
4) Write every day. If you want to be a published author, you need to start treating it like a profession. It's hard work, and you need to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, every day. Set a word target or a time limit, and stick to it. Even if you only write a paragraph or two, it's better than nothing. I firmly believe writing is like a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger and better it gets.
5) Give as good as you get… in terms of feedback, that is. Offer your opinion and constructive criticism to members of your writing group. It will help you immensely in identifying what may be wrong with your work. Critiquing a piece of writing will shine a light on your own.
6) Get to know the business. Go to writing festivals, literary events, author talks, 'meet the agent' pitches, public book launches… Whatever you can find, go and mingle with people who also love books. Don't shove your 600-page manuscript under every editor or agent's nose, but use the experience to learn about how the business works. Be professional now, and those in the business will remember you when your work arrives on their desk. A quick 'google' will bring up many events to attend.
7) Another obvious one - but make sure you have a cracking story to tell! You need a hook, something to grab the reader's attention from page one, and keep them turning the pages. Try to sum up your idea in a sentence or two. For example, You Belong to Me is about a woman who fled her stalker, but is forced to return home when her parents are killed. She thinks she's safe, but her nightmare is about to begin again.
8) Never give up! I knew I wanted to be an author aged around 11 or 12. My first thriller was published when I was 40. During that time, I was always writing, practicing, getting better, developing and doing all the other points in this list. Stick at it!
9) Edit your work. Know the value of this process, because in many ways, it's almost more important than the writing itself. Once your work is finished, I'd advise not looking at it for a month. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, make notes to yourself where the story doesn't work. And fix it! If that means cutting a character, or your favourite scene, or even adding in another point of view to make it work, then do it. Take your time. This is the most important stage and will pay dividends.
10) Finally, enjoy your writing! If you don't, no one else will. You are creating a piece of entertainment - what could be better? So find yourself a quiet space, make a cuppa, turn off your phone, and write your novel. I absolutely loved writing You Belong to Me (though I scared myself a few times!) and I really hope you love reading it.
You Belong to Me by Samantha Hayes,
published by Century, at £12.99
My verdict: This brilliant psychological thriller is an amazing read. This is Samantha Hayes at her best.
Read my full review: http://off-the-shelfbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/you-belong-to-me.html
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