Welcome to week 21 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 crime and thriller author Owen Mullen.
Bestselling author Owen Mullen is a McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year long-listed novelist.
Owen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter,. He had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; He still loves to perform on occasion. His passion for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home in the Greek Islands where Owen writes.
Top 10 Writing Tips by Owen Mullen:
It’s important to remember that when it comes to writing there’s more than one way to do it. Every writer is unique, and every one of us has our own approach to the job. That said, to become a better writer means writing. It’s a learned skill and no matter how much talent you have, that isn’t going to change. Like learning golf or the piano, it takes time so practice, practice, practice.
And write, write, write.
Things I knew at the start
1) Show up at the keyboard… the ideas will show up too. Dibble dabbling will get you exactly nowhere. Constant applying of your imagination to creating characters and stories hones and refines it.
2) Read as many different writing styles as possible, see what you like/don’t like about them and bring this to your own writing. Other writers are our teachers and the tuition is free [or the price of a book]. Not a bad deal when you think about it.
Things I wish I’d known
3) It’s best to write about an area/subject you know well if you want to become traditionally published. At least, that’s what they say. Try telling that to H G Wells after he’d created The Time Machine or The War of the Worlds. Though for the rest of us, it’s solid advice.
4) Start a blog to gain an audience – and get interactive on social media. I didn’t do this and wish I had because it means you’re already in touch with the beginnings of an audience.
5) Get to as many book events as you can and NETWORK. There’s an old adage that says: people buy people. Having the opportunity to talk to readers and be available for them to talk to you pays dividends. Think of it as building your readership, one book at a time.
6) Don’t believe it’s possible to edit your own work – no matter how many times you read it you will miss a lot of errors. You really do need an external eye. I made this mistake early on and still regret it. Even now, a book can be edited at our end, usually more than once, go on to the publisher’s editor, then the proofreader – and still have errors in it. Difficult to credit but absolutely true.
7) Research genres…find the right genres for you and write to that. Publishers don’t like it when you cross genres because they find it difficult to market. Don’t just jump right in. If you want your books to be read, think about where your audience is to be found and couple that with what you feel comfortable writing.
8) Write at your own pace…don’t be discouraged if your word count is less than other writers – everyone has their own ‘best method’. Every week on Facebook, I read about writers producing 9,000 words a day. That isn’t me. And it probably isn’t you either. Set achievable goals – say 1,000 words a day – and don’t quit until you get them.
9) If you are going down the indie route, learn about marketing – you’ll need to advertise so get to grips with the big systems like FB Amazon and Bookbub. Alternatively, do what I did and marry a smart woman.
10) Did I mention show up at the keyboard. It all starts and ends with this discipline.
Writing is a fantastic and challenging journey. I wish you good fortune on yours.
Bonus tip – BE LUCKY!
Huge thanks to Owen for sharing his top tips with us. You can find out more about Owen and his latest release Out of the Silence here: