Top 10 Writing Tips
Welcome to week 14 of our Top 10 Writing Tips 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.
Learning from mentors helps us to improve and evolve in our chosen field, and I still recall the top tips given to me at the start of my writing journey. In honour of that, and to help the next generation of writers’ young and old, I started a feature whereby established authors impart their words of wisdom and share their top ten writing tips.
Next up for the challenge is author Cassandra Parkin.
Cassandra Parkin is an award-winning author of novels and short stories. Her latest novel, The Slaughter Man, is published by Legend Press.
Top 10 Tips by Cassandra Parkin
- If you want to write, the best time to start is right now. Don’t wait for the mood to strike, the stars to align or your eccentric maiden aunt to die and leave you a small-but-perfectly-appointed clifftop cottage in her will. Just grab something to write on, and write.
- Yes, you really do have time right now, I promise! Here’s a quick exercise to get you started. Stick a timer on your phone for 5 minutes. Write the words “I remember”, and then just…keep writing. You might find yourself describing something from a long time ago, or something that happened to you this morning. It might be a big moment (falling in or out or love, finding or losing someone important, the first or last day of a key part of your life). Or it might be a small moment. It might be funny, sad, bittersweet, strange or mundane. Whatever comes to you is fine. Don’t stop to read it over, don’t worry about whether it makes sense, don’t worry if it’s in a logical sequence, don’t worry if you don’t get to the end of your memory (you can always come back and finish it off later) and absolutely don’t worry about your spelling, punctuation or grammar. As long as you can read your own handwriting, don’t worry about that either. Just keep going until that timer goes off. Ready? Off you go.
- Now take a minute to admire just how much you wrote in five minutes. Seriously, I bet it’s a lot more than you thought you could. This is how most of us write our first novels. We find those five minute intervals, and we put them to use, over and over and over until we’ve finally finished.
- Many people think that writing is a two-stage process – first you create the idea, then you write it down. My experience is that this is hardly ever true. Ideas are created by the physical act of writing. Don’t feel as though you have to know what you’re going to say before you start. The words will come to you as you write them.
- Having said that – most novelists tend to fall into one of the three great writing tribes: the Plotters, the Pantsers and the Jigsaw-doers. Plotters work best when they have an overall plan for their novel before they start. Pantsers like to fly by the seat of their pants. Jigsaw-doers will have a few incredibly vivid key scenes they know they want to include, but won’t have a clear idea of how they all fit together or what bits come in between. All of these approaches are valid, and the right one is whichever one works for you. If you’re not sure, it’s okay to experiment.
- Here is a rough breakdown of how easy novels are to write, in ascending order of difficulty:
a) the first twenty per cent or so
b) the last page
c) and by an absolute country mile, everything else in between
Please know that when you hit that incredibly long this-is-awful-why-am-I-even-doing-this slog through, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’ve kept going long enough to get to the hard part. Well done you. Now keep going.
- As you make your way through the tortuous crawl of the difficult middle section, you may find a new and shiny idea begins whispering in your ear. Do not quit so you can start on the new project. I absolutely guarantee that if you abandon Idea One to pursue Idea Two, you’ll end up with two projects that both turn nasty at around the twenty per cent mark. You will learn so much more from seeing one first draft through to the bitter end than you’ll learn from starting and abandoning a dozen seemingly brilliant ideas.
- First drafts suck. All of them. All the time. That’s okay. The only job your first draft has to do, is to exist. You can fix all the things that are wrong with it (and there will be zOMG SO MANY THINGS wrong with it) when you start editing. But you can’t fix what you haven’t written.
- When the thought of spending one more second of your life on editing your manuscript causes you actual physical pain, you’re probably about halfway there.
- If writing brings you joy, you should do it. You may or may not be published one day. You may or may not win awards one day. You may or may not become rich and famous one day. But if you spent time writing and you enjoyed it, that’s a good enough reason all by itself. You are allowed to do something just because it makes you happy.
Huge thanks to Cassandra for sharing her top tips with us. If you want to check out her new release, The Slaughter Man, then click HERE. To find out more about her other novels including Underwater Breathing you can connect with her via her website or Twitter.