Top 10 Writing Tips with Alison Morton
Welcome to week 10 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 Alison Morton.
Alison writes the acclaimed Roma Nova series – “intelligent adventure thrillers with heart.” She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service, an MA in history and an insatiable curiosity about what motivates people.
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…
Now she continues to write thrillers, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband.
Alison’s Top Ten Tips:
- Write what you love. Yes, keep an eye out for commercial opportunities, but don’t let it dominate. Readers will engage with your story if you are passionate about it.
- Bash out your first draft in its entirety, then go back and edit only when you’ve finished. Not only may you change your mind about the plot as you get into your story, which would make that on-the-go editing a waste of time, but editing at this stage will also bring the flow to a juddering halt. The only exception is checking research (see 4. below).
- Twists, turns and true surprises are a trademark of my own Roma Nova stories; as a reader I love them! However, you should weave them into the story logically and plausibly. Nobody likes ‘It was all a dream’ or a new character suddenly turning up in the last chapter with the solution. The trick is to drop in a few sideways clues early on in your story, but not over-emphasise them.
- Do proper research before you start a new story, but don’t get stuck in it. Do recheck the details of your research/knowledge – it may alter the scene or story radically if you get it wrong! I mark up any doubtful section in [blue with square brackets] as I type, then check after I’ve finished that session’s writing.
- Don’t automatically sneer at Wikipedia; these days it’s usually fine for a quick overview or introduction to something completely unknown. BUT you’ll find the research gold in the sources listed at the end of articles.
- Keep your world plausible and consistent, whether it’s in a historical novel set in the fourth century AD, a Mars colony in the twenty-second or the local high street. Speech, clothes, attitudes, social and economic conditions, values, moral codes as well as how the world looks, smells and feels are crucial if you are leading the reader on a journey of the imagination.
- Don’t feel guilty if you don’t write one day or for a few days. Your mind will be working in the background.
- Never compromise on quality: save up for the best editor possible and for a professional cover if going indie. If taking the traditional route, do let your editor know if you are particularly unhappy about the edits, design or cover. The ultimate decision is theirs – they bought your book – but many (although not all) will value your input.
- Remember to make your characters human and live naturally in their world, not yours; but they’ll have fears and desires just like yours, although expressed differently. The most important thing is to get into the minds of the characters in that setting and not influence them with your own values and ideals. Connected with this is avoiding the dreaded info-dump where Character 1 explains something to Character 2 that the latter would have known as an inhabitant of that world. But sometimes you do have to fudge it!
- Cultivate other writers, join a writing organisation and or a writing group. Best of all, find a tough, caring and eagle-eyed critique writing partner. I’ve had mine for ten years; I would never have published nine books without her.
Huge thanks to Alison for sharing her top ten tips. You can find out more about Alison and her books here:
Alison’s latest in the Roma Nova series, NEXUS is just out in ebook and paperback!
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison_morton
What’s NEXUS about?
Mid 1970s. Ex-Praetorian Aurelia Mitela is serving as Roma Nova’s interim ambassador in London.
Asked by a British colleague to find his missing son, Aurelia thinks it will only be a case of a young man temporarily rebelling. He’s bound to turn up only a little worse for wear.
But a spate of high-level killings pulls Aurelia away into a dangerous pan-European investigation.
Badly beaten in Rome as a warning, she discovers the killers have kidnapped her life companion, Miklós, and sent an ultimatum: Back off or he’ll die.
But Aurelia is a Roma Novan and they never give up…