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 N Z Nasser
N. Z. Nasser is a writer of paranormal women’s fiction. Her stories are about women who change the world, filled with magic and rooted in friendship. A lover of barefoot walks along the beach, she is glad to have left behind her career in the civil service and to never wear heels again. Whether she is writing in her garden office or wrangling laundry, she is happiest with a cup of tea at her side. She lives in London with her husband, three children, two cats and a fox-mad dog.
Nillu’s Top 10 Writing Tips
- Prioritise your writing. Made sure loved ones know how important it is to you, partly so they could hold you to account, but also to claim writing as part of your identity. I set both short and long-term writing goals, one of which is to write every day. I try to not let more than a day pass without putting pen to paper, even if it is just writing in my journal. This mindset was the biggest shift you can make. Getting words on paper is one thing you can control. For me, making that daily investment is directly linked to my contentment.
- Read craft books and writing blogs, listen to podcasts and join appropriate Facebook groups for your genre and business needs. If you have a blind spot, then work towards meeting that learning need. In the early days, when I was still building my confidence, it helped to read craft books such as Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing. I found it helpful to read blogs by fellow writers both for motivation and tips. Blogs by Kristen Lamb and Chuck Wendig are amongst my favourites. Find voices that resonate with you and you can learn from. Nowadays, I find podcasts helpful to keep me up to date on what is a fast changing industry, such as Six Figure Authors and The Creative Penn Podcast.
- Find your tribe. By this, I mean other authors. For me, friendships during the early days of Twitter found using hashtags such as #MondayBlogs, #FridayPhrases, #FlashFriday and #WWWBlogs were invaluable. Another way might be to participate in critique, Facebook groups, NaNoWriMo or sprint groups. You might be sitting in a turret all day writing your novel, or at the kitchen table when everyone else is in bed, but these groups help keep the loneliness at bay and can lead to lasting friendships and great collaborations. Just beware that the flip side of social media is that it takes time and can be addictive. You’ll know to scale back if your writing output suffers.
- Find beta-readers or critique partners, who you can trust and who will not be afraid to tell you the truth in a kind way. I send my beta-readers my manuscript before it goes to my editor. They should be familiar with your genre and are a crucial step towards polishing your work for publication. They are also a way to accelerate your learning as a writer. Just be careful that you are ready to expose your work—and ego—to scrutiny. It takes courage to expose your work to strangers. Your confidence should be strong enough to unpick the comments, gain an awareness of areas for craft improvement and hone your work.
- Persevere. Believe in your talent, take your passions and pour them onto the page. Finish your stories. When they are finished, don’t bury them in a drawer. Hand them to a reader and let them live. Seeing the process through from idea to finished product is how you take yourself seriously as a writer. You created a whole world. That’s wonderful. Celebrate your achievement. Take a breath. Now you get to start the process all over again.
- Be influenced by better writers. Read widely in your genre and beyond. Read with a writer’s eye, looking at characterisation, setting, plot devices, dialogue, viewpoint and word choices. Be inspired not disheartened by the successes of other writers. There is space enough for everyone to be successful. Concentrate on your own trajectory. Remember that regardless of genre, there are common elements to all good stories. Pick up T. Taylor’s book on 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Book to Anyone if you haven’t already.
- Don’t fret if the words don’t flow. If the words aren’t flowing, shake up your routine. Don’t think too hard about the plot problem you are trying to unfurl or the phrasing you just can’t get right. Change your scenery by going for a walk. Make a playlist of songs to match the mood of your scene. Do something monotonous or repetitive like washing the dishes or doing the gardening. If the glowing screen in front of you is taunting you with your lack of productivity, grab a notebook and scrawl away in illegible writing, fill a pristine A3 pad with rubbish drawings. Give your story the room to come alive however it wants to.
- Find tools that make your life easier. Scrivener was a revelation for me. I also love Vellum, Plottr, Evernote and Zenkit To do. There are so many moving cogs in a writer business and these help me keep my mind and my work tidy. Some of these programmes are Mac-centric. Find the ones that work for you. It might be a dictation app, a productivity tracker, a chair that eases your back pain or a no frills word-processor that eliminates your distractions. We are so lucky to live at a time where the choices are endless. Find what works for you.
- Daydreams are fun, but in reality a writing career does not emerge overnight. Lady Luck does not suddenly propel you to the top of the New York Times Best Seller overnight. It’s all about work. The hours at a desk, the battles with doubt, pouring over craft books, the notes scribbled at school pick up because you’ve found a detail that is just perfect for your story, nurturing relationships and trusting strangers with your work. So much of this is pleasurable. And so much of this is hard. It’s a marathon, not the 100m. These repeated acts, month after month, year after year, are what makes a writer.
- Be proud of yourself. So many people have the ambition to write a book but not many see that through. You create stories and stories change the world. We need them. They help us understand ourselves and each other. You’re part of that canon.
Thank you, Shelley, for inviting me to be part of this series. I’ve read many of the Top 10 Writing Tips over the years. It’s a joy to be here. (My pleasure!)
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