Learning from mentors helps us to improve and evolve in our chosen field, and I still recall the advice given to me at the start of my writing journey.
To help other writers, I started a feature whereby established authors shared their words of wisdom and top ten writing tips.
It was a huge success and I was delighted to bring the feature back for a second season! You’ll find all the Top 10 Writing Tip articles here.
Meet Anne Goodwin
Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel,Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel,Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of prize-winning short stories.
Anne’s Top 10 Writing Tips
My Top 10 Tips address literary citizenship; beneficial not-writing; getting started on your writing project; learning to love editing; early promotion; and the psychological side of surviving and thriving in an enterprise where failure is the norm.
Read … a lot!
There can’t be many professions where you can improve and maintain your skills by indulging in what you most enjoy. So commit to your reading as much as you commit to your writing; don’t just leave it for the ten minutes before you switch the light off when you go to bed. Read within and outside the genre you write in. Read for pleasure, to support other authors and to learn your craft. And review if you can: putting your reflections on paper or screen helps consolidate your thoughts. What did you enjoy about the book you read and how did the author achieve it? What do you think they should have done differently? This can help clarify what you want your writing to do. You can also support your fellow authors by posting your reviews online.
Cultivate a walk habit
Sitting crouched over a keyboard is bad news for your body, so get up and move around. Better still, go for a walk, ideally amid greenery. With luck, you’ll return with not only the knots in your muscles untangled but also in your characters and plot.
Nail your elevator pitch
Can you describe your writing project in under twenty words in a way that captures others’ interest? It’s hard, but sooner or later you’ll need a succinct way to tell potential readers and prospective publishers (if you’re going down the traditional route) what your book is about. A firm statement before beginning your writing project will also help you keep focused in early drafts.
Take care of your emotions
Fiction and memoir embedded in your lived experience can resonate powerfully with readers, but only if it’s not too raw. Don’t write about your painful past until you’ve processed it but, even then, painful feelings can emerge and derail both author and narrative. Many of us write from a place of vulnerability, and digging deep into our emotions can take its toll. Don’t rule out personal therapy to help address these issues. Contrary to popular belief, therapy won’t stifle your creativity and could enhance it.
Separate yourself from the work to relish revisions
A first draft is a major achievement, but it only takes you to the foothills. You’ll need to grapple a lot more with your manuscript to produce a book worthy of publication. It’s impossible to judge your work objectively, so feedback from others – in a peer critique group or through a commissioned editorial review – can help you see what isn’t working. Yet criticism can sting when you’ve poured your heart and soul onto the page. Step back for a while and approach the editing process not as evidence you’ve written rubbish but as an opportunity to edge nearer your ideal.
Cut, cut and cut again
When you’re drafting, it feels good to watch that word count mounting. When editing, you should feel a similar satisfaction in seeing it decline. Cutting the crap is easy; can you kill your darlings too? As much as readers might admire your luscious prose, they won’t thank you for taking them on a world tour to get your characters to the next town. Show don’t tell is good advice in general, but there are times it’s better to tell in the most economical and straightforward way.
Build your author newsletter early
An author newsletter is the most reliable way to build your relationship with readers, and you don’t have to wait until you’ve published a book to begin. In fact, it’s better to make those connections when you don’t have something to sell. You need permission to sign people up but a reader magnet – a polished short story or similar – can attract readers to your list. Then you can email them periodically to incite their interest in the world of your book.
Aim high but prepare for disappointment
Rejection, negative reviews and words that won’t do what you want: the only sure way to avoid failure is never to try. Striving for success (whatever way you choose to measure it) means risking disappointment, so you need strategies for managing your hurt feelings when they arise. Sound off to friends, scream or sulk, but be sure to behave professionally in public spaces, including online.
Find allies in other writers
Writing can feel lonely, so connect with others – in person or online – who understand the ups and downs. A critique group, where you share and comment on extracts from each other’s work, can provide a dual function of improving your writing and mutual support. Be a good literary citizen and support your fellow authors: attend events, buy their books or borrow from the library. Don’t berate yourself if you feel rivalrous: learn from the success of others and use envy as a signal for self-care.
Do it your way
Write about the topics you’re passionate about rather than trying to squeeze yourself into a fickle market. Set your own criteria for success. Listen to advice but don’t follow it mechanically. Be your authentic self in all your authorial endeavours: you’ll enjoy it more and your readers will appreciate it too.
Connect with Anne here:
Publisher Inspired Quill
Link tree https://linktr.ee/annecdotist
Book blog Annecdotal
Amazon author page viewauthor.at/AnneGoodwin
YouTube Anne Goodwin’s YouTube channel
Book Blurb for Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home
In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.
As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.
Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.
Purchase options Matilda Windsor link tree
Be sure to check out all of Anne’s amazing books.