Welcome to week 4 of our Top 10 Writing Tips by… feature. If you’ve missed any of the other top tip posts you can find them all HERE. Please feel free to pop over and connect with the wonderful authors who have taken part.
Next up for the challenge is author, Terry Tyler.
Top 10 Writing Tips by Terry Tyler
Terry is a writer, with 19 books on Amazon. She’s obsessed with The Walking Dead and all things post-apocalyptic, she also loves South Park, Game of Thrones, autumn and winter, history, and most books/films/TV series to do with war/battles/gangsters. Terry is a vegan who falls off the wagon now and again. She lives in the north east of England with her husband, who she loves even more than Daryl Dixon.
Here are Terry’s top ten writing tips:
- First of all: don’t panic if the first draft leaves a lot to be desired. In the words of Terry Pratchett, ‘the first draft is you telling the story to yourself’. It’s the raw material that you will turn into a publishable novel, the stage at which you get to know your characters, find out which ideas work and which don’t, work out better plot developments as you’re writing―if some of it sucks, that’s fine, because you will be making all those necessary improvements in the redrafts. Which leads me to…
- Redraft, redraft, redraft, and then go over it just once more. Redraft when you’re sick of the sight of it; if you’re not sick of it by the time it’s ready for publication, you probably haven’t redrafted enough. Start from the beginning each time; don’t jump from one chapter/scene to another, because you need to see the book as a whole. You get better at it, as you practise the craft; I’ve published fifteen novels, and the most recent are much tighter than the earlier ones.
- Understand that it takes a while for your characters to turn into three-dimensional people in your own mind. Think about them when you’re not writing. Be them; imagine yourself walking in their shoes. I tend to be quite a way through the first draft before I know who they really are. Some writers construct detailed bios for them, but I don’t favour this, because people are more than just a list of characteristics/facts. Getting inside a character’s head is about their inner thoughts, their motivations, their hopes and fears.
- As I write early drafts, I compile a list of slang words/adjectives/dialogue tics used by each character, to make sure they don’t all use the same ones. I pin it to the noticeboard in front of my desk, and refer to it constantly. Be continually aware of not slipping from ‘their’ voice to your own, particularly during a longer speech in which you want to deliver information, or a certain point of view. For instance, your own word choices might work for Megan, who speaks as eloquently as you do, but Lisa may not; you need to work with each character’s own levels of education/articulation.
- If you’re not sure about a fact, like when a film came out, when something was invented, the distance between two cities, or the spelling of a foreign name, don’t guess―look it up. When I first started writing there was no internet, and I had to make lists of all the stuff I needed to know, and go to the library once a week. Now, we have Google―yes, your readers will notice if you write about Anne Boleyn eating potatoes (they didn’t appear in this country until the reign of Elizabeth I).
- During the first draft: before you log out at the end of a writing session, write notes for what comes next, or the next chapter. This way, when you go back to it, you’ll know exactly where you’re going, instead of staring at the screen and your mind going blank! Read through what you wrote last time, which will help to put you back in the ‘zone’―then, if you have the notes or plan already written down for the next bit, you’re good to go!
- Make sure you know when you should use ‘me’ rather than ‘I’. As a reviewer for a book blog team, this is one error I come across time and time again. Not sure? It’s very simple. Take these three sentences:
Bob took Sally and I to the pub.
The result was good for Joe, but not so good for Mary and I.
Lily travelled home with Ryan and I.
Ryan and I gave Lily a ride home.
To determine whether you should use ‘I’ or ‘me’, simply remove the ‘Sally and’, ‘Mary and’ and ‘Ryan and’. If it still reads as it should, it’s correct. Thus, the first three sentences are wrong, and the last one is right.
- You may be one of those writers who is able to do their own editing, if you’re blessed with good attention to detail and are able to write as a reader and be honest when something isn’t working/needs cutting, but everyone needs a proofreader. Don’t believe website blurb―get recommendations from established writers. Friends can help spot typos, etc, but they won’t have the expertise of a professional; they may not be a hundred percent on the rules of punctuation and capital letters, etc.
- …but don’t make the mistake of thinking that proofreaders and editors are good fairies with magic wands. Their job is not to turn a scrappy first draft into a saleable novel; that’s your responsibility. Your novel should be as good as it can be before the editor gets their hands on it, and it should be one step away from publishing before the proofreader sees it.
- You will have read, so often, about the importance of the first chapter, even the first page or paragraph. That it has to hook the reader in, whether that reader is a member of the public or an agent or publisher. I think, though, that a terrific final chapter is just as important. If a reader enjoyed a book but thinks the ending was an anti-climax or too neatly tied up, this can turn a 5* review into a 3*. It’s the bit that will stay in their heads when they’re telling others what they thought―and the last bit they read before they write a review.
Thank you for inviting me to your Top Tips feature, Shelley, and I hope your Writers Workshop students find this list helpful! My pleasure x
Huge thanks to Terry for sharing her top tips with us. If you want to check out her latest release HOPE, then click HERE.
‘We haven’t elected a Prime Minister, we’ve elected a lifestyle’.
As the fourth decade of the 21st century looms, new PM Guy Morrissey and his fitness guru wife Mona (hashtag MoMo) are hailed as the motivational couple to get the UK #FitForWork, with Mona promising to ‘change the BMI of the nation’.
Lita Stone is an influential blogger and social media addict, who watches as Guy and Mona’s policies become increasingly ruthless. Unemployment and homelessness are out of control. The solution? Vast new compounds all over the country, to house those who can no longer afford to keep a roof over their heads.
These are the Hope Villages, financed by US corporation Nutricorp.
Lita and her flatmates Nick and Kendall feel safe in their cosy cyberspace world. Unaware of how swiftly bad luck can snowball, they suspect little of the danger that awaits the unfortunate, behind the carefully constructed mirage of Hope.
Terry Tyler’s nineteenth published work is a psychological thriller that weaves through the darker side of online life, as the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider. Whether or not it will mirror a dystopian future that awaits us, we will have to wait and see.