Today I have a great post from author S.R Wilsher with some top writing tips before such knowledge is imparted here is what his book The Glass Diplomat is about.
In 1973 Chile, as General Augusto Pinochet seizes power, thirteen-year-old English schoolboy Charlie Norton watches his father walk into the night and never return. Taken in by diplomat, Tomas Abrego, his life becomes intricately linked to the family.
Despite his love for the Abrego sisters, he’s unable to prevent Maria falling under the spell of a left-wing revolutionary, or Sophia from marrying the right-wing Minister of Justice.
His connection to the family is complicated by the growing impression that Tomas Abrego was somehow involved in his father’s disappearance.
As the conflict of a family divided by politics comes to a head on the night of the 1989 student riots, Charlie has to act to save the sisters from an enemy they cannot see.
Top writing tips
This post has to come with a warning. See tip 1. Some will be recognisable as fairly universal, one or two possibly not. Part of the way through you might also wonder why I write.
I’m a great example of advice not to take. I mix genres, I’ve no idea who my audience is, and I write only to please myself. And sometimes I resent the compulsion, as I’ve never given myself wholeheartedly to any job, and it can impact on my home life as I’m often preoccupied. I often wonder what my life would look like if I’d spent those thousands of hours developing a skill that paid well instead.
I am committed to writing though. For me, it’s all consuming. I write every day. That’s not to say I insist on doing 3000 words before I do anything else. I don’t care about daily word count. I see it as a pointless distraction, the equivalent of weighing yourself every day. I might only write something fresh, or delete something stale in a session, but I mean it in the sense that the story lives with me every day.
Across the years though, a few things have occurred to me that I might be able to dress up as advice;
- Don’t take too much advice. That’s not meant to be facetious. It merely means that there is a lot of advice out there. Not all of it is helpful, or springs from a place of great knowledge. Much of it is second-hand. And some of it can also kill originality.
- Nobody knows how to write a great book. Those who have often don’t know how it happened.
- Read and write as much as you can as often as you can. The more you write, the better you will become. The more you read, the deeper any understanding.
- Don’t get hung up on word counts, just try and make progress every day. If the primary concern is quantity then it will lead to overwriting and padding.
- Always have a notebook handy (this one, as I do, predates mobiles) as solutions present themselves at the oddest moments.
- Don’t wait for inspiration to strike otherwise you might never start. Just put words on the page and see where it leads. You don’t have to use them, and anyway the rewriting is where a story really becomes clear.
- Don’t be in too much of a hurry to publish. If you get published traditionally early on then that’s great. But be wary of self-publishing too quickly and before a story is truly ready. My biggest mistake was with The Collection of Heng Souk. I wrote the main body of the story in UK English, but used US English for the journal part written by an American. That didn’t go down too well in the US and I received a lot of flak for spelling and grammar. In the end, I rewrote it all in US English because it was predominantly an American story.
- The one I set most store by for myself though is – if you have one sentence or scene that is so crucial to the story that it can’t be omitted, then the rest isn’t good enough.
- Coping with the after effects of writing can also be hard. Reviews! Don’t get too excited about a five star review, some people are just too nice to offer anything less, but also that way you hopefully won’t be too bothered by a one star review. Think about all those classics or bestsellers that left you cold, and remember reading is subjective. Anyway, there will be people out there you wouldn’t want to like your work, whose morality, or lifestyle, or beliefs are anathema to you.
- The last point is merely a reflection. No matter the ups and downs of writing, there’s nothing else I’ve found that I would want to replace it with, and it has to be the single most satisfying self-indulgence that has ever harvested my life.
It is the second last day of the tour but that just means that you have a lot of stops to go back and visit.
It didn’t occur to me to write until I was twenty-two, prompted by reading a disappointing book by an author I’d previously liked. I wrote thirty pages of a story I abandoned because it didn’t work on any level. I moved on to a thriller about lost treasure in Central America; which I finished, but never showed to anyone. Two more went the way of the first, and I forgave the author.
After that I became more interested in people-centric stories. I also decided I needed to get some help with my writing, and studied for a degree with the OU. I chose Psychology partly because it was an easier sell to my family than Creative Writing. But mainly because it suited the changing tastes of my writing. When I look back, so many of my choices have been about my writing.
I’ve been writing all my adult life, but nine years ago I had a kidney transplant which interrupted my career, to everyone’s relief. It did mean my output increased, and I developed a work plan that sees me with two projects on the go at any one time. Although that has taken a hit in recent months as I’m currently renovating a house and getting to know my very new granddaughter.
I write for no other reason than I enjoy it deeply. I like the challenge of making a story work. I get a thrill from tinkering with the structure, of creating characters that I care about, and of manipulating a plot that unravels unpredictably, yet logically. I like to write myself into a corner and then see how I can escape. To me, writing is a puzzle I like to spend my time trying to solve.