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 Robert Crouch
Drawing on his own experiences of injustice, Robert Crouch believes killers can also be victims, driven to take the law into their own hands to seek the justice that’s been denied them. He combines this with his expertise in environmental health to create Kent Fisher, a sleuth one reviewer described as ‘a wonderful creation, unique in crime literature’.
With seven books in the Kent Fisher murder mystery series, and an eighth on the way, it all adds up to something original, contemporary, and a little different from the usual murder mysteries on the market.
For more details, please take a closer look at his website at https://robertcrouch.co.uk.
Robert’s Top Ten Writing Tips
As there is already plenty of guidance on the craft of writing, I’m going to focus on the issues that have made a difference to me as an author.
1. Find your voice.
Your voice is what distinguishes you from every other author out there. It’s as unique as a fingerprint. It’s the way you express yourself, a way that’s the most natural and comfortable to you. Don’t fight it. Embrace it, hone and refine it, but make sure it remains true to you.
It’s easy to be influenced by other writers and their styles, often unconsciously. Simply remember that all of them had to start somewhere and discover their own voices. They all wrote a first novel, but how many of them had it published? You may have to write three or four before you you’re your voice and create the book you always wanted to write.
Trust me, you’ll know when your writing works.
I discovered my voice by writing a blog. Without the pressure of creating a novel, my natural style took over. I enjoyed writing those blog posts so much, I forgot about rules and technique and focused on what I was saying.
I went on to revise my first Kent Fisher novel and it was accepted for publication.
Read as much as you can, especially in the genre in which you want to write. Immerse yourself in the latest and the greatest books and authors in your genre. See how these authors write and plot, how they create and develop their characters, and how they tell a memorable story.
While there’s always a chance reading could influence what you write, reading is about the most enjoyable and absorbing research you can do.
3. Finish the first draft.
If you can’t finish the first draft, how will you know whether you can write a book?
First drafts are about the creative process, getting ideas down, creating and developing your characters and voice. It’s about your ability to complete the task. It takes determination, perseverance and a lot of hard graft to complete a first draft, but there are few feelings like it when you write ‘The End’.
It isn’t the end, of course, but everything that follows is about turning those initial rough ideas into a polished final product.
4. Rest before revising.
Sometimes, the temptation to keep going, to keep improving your work can be difficult to resist. The thought of leaving your manuscript on the shelf for four to six weeks can be scary. You want to improve it, to edit and revise while it’s fresh in your mind.
But editing and revising are best approached with a clear head. Trust me, after a few weeks away from your ‘baby’ you’ll see it much more clearly and objectively. You’ll spot the errors, the clumsy phrasing, the character whose name changes between chapters and much, much more. You’ll get a feeling for the flow of the story, the highs and lows, whether the story works, if it sags about two thirds of the way through, or if you need to plant some better clues for your detective to find.
It took me a long time to appreciate and embrace this cooling off period. So, no matter how tempting it might be, I never return early to a manuscript. If I have any ideas for improvements, I make a note of them and put them with the story for future reference.
5. Planner or pantser?
Writers usually fall into one or other of these categories. Some authors can’t embark on a novel unless they know how it’s going to develop, what the major conflicts will be and how it will end. Others like to fly by the seat of their pants and see where the story and characters take them.
I’ve done both and I know which produces the better results for me. I’m a pantser. I can start a novel with a line of dialogue and nothing more. It wasn’t always like this, but I enjoy the freedom and excitement of not knowing what will come next. If I’m excited as I write, I hope the reader will be equally excited as they read.
If the prospect of writing 80,000 words frightens you, write a synopsis. Think about the highs and lows of your story. And if you write non-fiction, a plan probably makes more sense. But remember it’s only a guide. When you’re writing well, characters have a habit of doing what you don’t expect. Embrace those moments and go with your characters. Your plans can always be updated.
Either way, you know which will appeal most to you.
6. Don’t let criticism get to you.
I’m not just talking bad reviews. This can be the comments you get in a writers’ group, whether terrestrial or based on the internet. Once you put your writing out there, be prepared for all kinds of comments. Most should be positive and helpful, but it doesn’t stop them hurting if someone ‘doesn’t get’ what you’re about.
Someone once described one of my characters as wooden and unbelievable. It took me a few days to be objective about the comments and realise they were correct. This allowed me to make improvements to my work.
However, these critics often pale compared to the little devil who sits on my shoulder, trying to fill me with self-doubt, especially when the writing isn’t going well. This little devil isn’t always easy to ignore, so remember you can always improve and revise what you write. Keep going, keep writing and finish that draft.
7. Write the kind of book you want to read.
It took me a long time to bring together what I liked to read with what I wrote. They were often some distance apart. Then there was the thought that I could never match the great authors I admired.
Then I had another thought. Maybe they felt the same when they first started to write.
If you enjoy a particular style of book, you will be more familiar with the requirements of that genre, whether you realise it or not. This will help you enormously when you write, often at a subconscious level.
8. Enjoy writing.
If you step back and consider what’s involved in writing a novel, say, it’s daunting and often overwhelming, especially if you plan to publish yourself. Then there’s the criticism, good and bad, that others may give you, not to mention rejection by agents and publishers. And, let’s be honest, whether you only have a couple of hours a day or you can write full time, there’s plenty to distract you.
But I wouldn’t swap it for anything. The prospect of creating something new and exciting always lifts me. I love spending time with my characters, experiencing their lives and emotions, sharing the highs and lows with them. They’re like friends and family, enriching my life.
I love those moments when something becomes clear, when an idea excites me.
I firmly believe you can never achieve your potential unless you love what you do. That’s why you need to find your voice, to care about what you write. Remember that when writing becomes a chore, or when you’re struck by self-doubt or indecision.
If you’re not enjoying your writing, take a rest.
9. Learn by doing.
I’ve nothing against the books about the craft of writing and I’ve purchased many ‘how to’ books in my time. But you learn by doing, by committing your ideas to paper or word processor. I’m even tempted to suggest you write the first draft of a novel without reading any books on the craft of writing. It’s easy to obsess about technique, character profiles, plotting and so on. These moments get in the way of the creative side of your brain.
Read the books after you’ve completed the draft and before you start revising.
10. Make notes, lots of notes.
You’ll never remember something the next morning, so crawl out of bed, write yourself a note and go back to sleep. Ideas come when you least expect them, often while you’re writing. If I’m out and about, I use the voice recorder app on my smartphone.
Many of my ideas come when I’m shaving. That’s usually when I start thinking about what I’ll write during the day ahead. It’s a short dash to my study, but well worth the effort.
I always keep a notebook for each novel I write. It allows me to record ideas, points to consider, character details while I’m writing. Making the notes helps me to consider significant issues, solve problems and show me issues I hadn’t yet considered.
While ideas are solutions to problems, they’re often a source of inspiration.
You don’t need me to tell you how frustrating it can be trying to remember that brilliant idea you had last night as you were drifting off to sleep.
Connect with Robert here:
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01HFPCYOM
Or sign up to his newsletter at https://wp.me/P9fJl7-Gb and receive a free copy of Dirty Work, an exclusive Kent Fisher adventure.
No Accident (The Kent Fisher Murder Mysteries Book 1)
The perfect murder can never be an accident.
When a body is found slumped over some machinery within Tombstone Adventure Park, it looks like a tragic work accident. Only nothing connected with the park’s playboy owner and entrepreneur is ever straightforward.
Environmental health officer, Kent Fisher, who fought tooth and nail to stop the park destroying the Sussex countryside, breaches a restraining order to investigate. Thwarted at every turn, his suspicions about the accident deepen until he unearths a conspiracy that reaches way beyond the adventure park.
Faced with a murder he can’t prove and decades of corruption that could destroy everything he holds dear, Kent has an impossible choice to make.
Can Kent hold his nerve and succeed against all the odds?
Grab a copy of this title and all of Robert’s books via his Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01HFPCYOM