Top 10 Writing Tips by Clemency Crow
Welcome to week 15 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 Clemency Crow.
“I can’t remember when I wrote my first story. We had a word processor when I was very little. It was an archaic piece of technology with no mouse, which meant you had to know the codes for it to work. My sister, Judith, and I wrote several stories using this. I think one of my stories was about a mammoth, probably during my I-want-to-be-a-mammoth-when-I-grow-up stage.
When I was a bit older, during Year 3 at Primary School, another sister brought home several A5 grey jotters and gave one to Ginny and Judith to plan and write their stories in. Naturally, I wanted a notebook too, so I said I was writing a story called “The Rule of the Unicorns”. I never finished that rather peculiar tale, but it meant I got one of those A5 grey jotters!
A good few years down the line and I’m a Primary Teacher in the tip-top North of Scotland. To encourage a love of reading in my pupils, I write a story with them in for their Christmas present. The first thing they do is flick through and try and find their name – but I hope they enjoy the story too!
When I’m not teaching, I love writing, working on my allotment and I’m crazy enough to be doing a Science degree at the same time.”
Clemency’s Top Ten Tips:
1 Find your ideal time and place to write.
Are you an early morning or late night person? Do you enjoy writing with a window in front of you, or do you spend all your time looking at the view thinking about writing? Yeah, that’s a bad one for me!
My ideal time to write is whenever I’m doing something else, like teaching a class of 28 children. Awkward.
2 Don’t worry about the quality of your first draft.
I bet you’ve heard this before, and you’ll hear it again. It’s a great feeling to have finished the first draft of a book, isn’t it! If you craft every sentence as you go, that first draft will become further and further away. And, to be honest, you’ll still have to change it when your editor gets their hands on it. That’s what editors are for.
The fact is: you’ve finished the first draft! Don’t worry about the niggles – there’s time to iron them out. Crack open the champagne, or the Ben & Jerry’s, or whatever takes your fancy, and celebrate! You’ve certainly earned it!
3 Imagine your story being played out in front of you.
I like this one…a lot! If I’m stuck for what to write, I imagine my story as a film. What should happen next? What would I like to see in a film? It’s a great way to think of plot twists…and, let’s be honest, it’s good fun too!
I bet you have an idea of who should play your protagonist! Go on, admit it!
4 If it’s suitable for children, get a child to be your beta reader!
Ideally, don’t tell them you wrote it, otherwise they might be nice just to please you. This is a really cunning one, but invaluable, especially if you write for this age group! Children are fantastic beta readers because they are so honest with their opinions. They don’t worry about wording things in a pretty way – they just want to give you their opinion. If they don’t like it…then my goodness, will they tell you! If they do like it then you know you’re onto a winner! I tested my book on my class (using a pseudonym) and they really enjoyed it!
5 If you’re bored, your reader will be bored.
This is something my brother told me once, and it’s a good’un! If you think writing this scene is a slog, then how do you think your reader is going to like it! Go on – spice things up a bit!
6 If in doubt, build a map!
Ok, this is a personal one for me, but it might work for you too. If you’re struggling with writing, then do planning. And what’s the most fun part of planning? Drawing maps! No? Ok, just me then.
If you also love making maps for your story, check out Campaign Cartographer – it’s inexpensive and fairly detailed.
7 Start building networking connections as soon as you have an idea for a book.
This isn’t something I’m very good at, but I really wish I had spent more time on this. The idea is you build connections to help you succeed when you do publish your work. Sounds rather mercenary, but the truth is your network can be incredibly helpful and supportive when you’re struggling for inspiration, or self-confidence. Get a good group of friends who can understand what you’re going through.
8 Get your work almost-top-notch before sending it off to an editor.
This sounds self-evident really. Of course, you’ll have to change things again with the editor, but make your editor’s life easier by giving them the best possible manuscript. When I gave my novel to my editor, I took it back again 2 days later because I wasn’t happy with it. Save yourself that bother.
9 Find the meanest editor around.
“But why would you want mean comments on your writing?”
Well, because, it’s much better to have mean comments from your editor than it is from the general public. Once your book goes out into the great, wide world, it’s impossible to take it back. Yes, you can go through the rigmarole of doing a 2nd edition, but that 1st batch will still be there. You need to make sure you’re proud of it being there.
If your editor picks up on niggles, rest assured others will. You don’t want to be getting lots of one or two-star reviews.
10 By all means, read about how to craft sentences, design plots, characters, worlds, but accept that everyone is different.
Finally, you are you. Your writing is just that: yours. Yes, Stephen King is a great author and incredibly successful, but your writing style could be completely different. Stephen King hates adverbs, but J K Rowling has plenty of them in Harry Potter. Two very successful authors. What does that tell you? That there are many styles of excellent writing.