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 Coates
It only took one tap dancing class (and some coaching from her mother who had been a dancer) for Anne Coates to realise that she would never be a Ginger Rogers but being a journalist/editor and writing fiction has allowed her to explore all manner of careers and situations with far less embarrassment.
Anne has worked as a journalist and editor for newspapers, magazines and publishers and has published seven non-fiction books as well as short stories.
Born in Clapham and now living a few miles away in East Dulwich, Anne’s Hannah Weybridge series, https://amzn.to/38egdOO published by Red Dog Press, is set in 1990s London. The first book, ‘Dancers in the Wind’, was inspired by interviews she did for a national newspaper and the latest, ‘Stage Call’ begins and ends in one of the capital’s most iconic theatres, The Old Vic – a favourite with the Coates family.
Anne’s Top 10 Writing Tips
- Read widely. Tempting though it may be, don’t just read within your genre. And read critically – make a note of what works, what bores or excites you. What makes you keep turning the pages?
- Check your facts. If you are writing about a place that exists, make sure you get the correct street names, date of building etc. If you can’t actually visit the place use Google maps etc. When I’m walking around the places I include, I often take photos to remind me of location and geography.
- Much of the research you may do won’t actually make it into the final version of your novel but it’s good to be familiar with background stories. Make sure you include it in your first draft then delete as necessary.
- Plot your timeline. I am more of a panster but for each book (my current series is set in the 1990s) I print out calendar pages so that I can keep my eye on events (stops my protagonist having two curries in one day!). Also when I’m writing I add the time and date to the chapter headings which I then delete in the final version.
- One tip everyone gives is to read your work aloud – this is especially helpful with dialogue. I also use the text to voice facility in Word. This is brilliant for highlighting typos you’ve missed.
- We all overuse some words – I use the find and change facility in Word. For instance find “looked” and change to “looked”. Then I go through the manuscript making the changes where highlighted.
- I find printing out my manuscript at each draft helps me with proofreading and I physically move chapters or even paragraphs to get a better momentum. I can see where there are gaps that need explaining or where sections need to be cut.
- As I write a series, I keep a “bible” of characters’ names, ages, jobs, descriptions and so on. It really helps keeping track. My protagonist has a baby and I need to be aware of months passing and what she’d be able to do etc. Also remember giving a main character a child or a pet means you always have to plan for looking after them when the plot takes the parent away.
- Don’t give up. I can’t tell you the number of times I and other published authors I know think that whatever we’re writing is rubbish and might as well be binned! Keep going. You can always work on a completed draft – polishing and honing your style until it’s the best it can be. If you’re really struggling with your manuscript, take a break and write some flash fiction or a short story. Flex your writing muscles. You don’t have to submit it anywhere – treat it as a writing exercise, which might inspire you with your work in progress.
- Don’t get hung up on the number of words you are writing. Each word is one step nearer a completed manuscript. Your narrative will have a natural length to tell the story. Don’t feel you have to pad it out. Remember quality over quantity is the mantra. Good luck!
Connect with Anne here:
Buy Anne’s Books here:
Hannah Weybridge Series (5 book series) – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B09C6H7SQW
Stage Call (Book 5)
At the Old Vic, one of London’s most iconic theatres, the stage is set for one of our national treasures to tread the boards in a new, sell-out play. Joan Ballantyne, now in her sixties, has attracted a new fan base with her role in an award-winning soap, Chicory Road, and they’ve turned out in force. As the curtain rises, it reveals the strangely still body of the leading lady, slumped in an armchair. The show will not go on…
Still recovering from the attempt on her life, Hannah Weybridge is stunned. She had been collaborating with the actress on her memoir. Now she has to contribute to her obituary. Suicide is suspected, but Hannah, from the little she knows of the woman, is sceptical. As is Joan’s son, the famous TV actor, Leo Hawkins, who implores Hannah to investigate the circumstances of his mother’s mysterious death.
Hannah is drawn into the lives of those who knew Joan. But who can she trust in a world where everyone seems to be playing a part?