Writing a book is a tough thing to do. It’s not just a matter of putting pen to paper and letting what’s inside you spill out. It has to come out of you with purpose and passion, with structure and other people in mind.
So, without further adu, here are the top 16 best tips for anyone looking to undertake the journey.
1. Keep a journal; record your dreams
Space is important to writing. It allows us to think of alternatives and to connect the dots between things we experience in our lives.
Of course, finding time to think freely is no easy feat.
Sleeping, though, can be time enough. All you have to do is try what you think up in your sleep.
Last night, I dreamed about a police raid. I dreamed all my friends were there and I didn’t know what was going on. But all my friends did, yet no one told me.
This isn’t exactly exciting, but it was quite a scarring dream, one that has given me a new idea for a short story.
Fortunately, when I awoke in a huff at one in the morning, I managed to get it down on paper.
I don’t think I’d have remembered otherwise.
2. Read, a lot
What was that Stephen King quote again? Oh yeah:
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
He’s quite right, too. The more you can read, the more you’ll understand things like story structure, character arcs and plot development.
If you want to write, read.
3. Use your commute as thinking time
Going back to the theme of needing time and space to think up new ideas and alternatives, your commute is the perfect place for it.
Much like going to the toilet, it’s time you won’t ever get back, yet it’s something you have to do.
Use it wisely.
4. Write something. Every. Single. Day.
And carry a notebook with you wherever you go. You never know when you’ll find the time to get a little writing done or need to document an idea.
If it’s a letter, a poem, a short story or work on your book, write every day.
I choose Medium to fulfil my daily writing needs. I know that if I can write an article a day here, I can do anything (writing related, of course. I’ll never fly).
5. Set word count goals and stick to ‘em
Goals are important. If you’re working towards something as big as a book, you need to keep track of hitting targets and making progress.
Set a daily word count and stick to it. Accountability is the only way to make any progress, and only you can hold yourself accountable to writing a book. No one is making you.
6. Your first draft will be sh*t
The first draft of any novel is to get some essence of story out and on paper. It’s a way to see the thoughts in your heat in a physical sense.
They won’t be in any order. Chapters will need moving and rewriting. You’ll laugh at yourself for what you wrote at the beginning of your book compared to the end.
Don’t sweat it. Even Stephen King’s first drafts are (most likely) sh*t.
7. Your second draft will also be sh*t
With that said, if you haven’t nailed it by your second draft, you can’t make an excuse and quit on yourself. Hemingway once said:
The only kind of writing is rewriting.
8. Read your third draft aloud to yourself
Good writing is conversational. I say that loosely, it’s not necessarily true. All I mean is that your writing should flow and make sense. Each sentence and paragraph should work together. Each character should speak how you expect them to if they really existed.
Reading aloud eliminates any nonsensical words you might have.
9. Use writing prompts to practice
Prompts are an incredible way to practice without the need to do the hard work of thinking up an idea.
I challenge you to writing from writing prompts you don’t like the look of. It’s a small challenge like that that will make you a better writer.
10. Take breaks
Too much of one thing is never good for anyone. Dedicate time to writing and stick to a tight schedule, otherwise you won’t know black from white, and instead you’ll be left trudging through the mud of your own mind to try and hit your daily word count.
When you’re not writing, don’t.
11. Do back exercises
Margaret Atwood taught me this one. She said:
Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.
Pain is distracting. If you’re slouched, sit up. If you ache, stretch. If you ever want to find that flow, you need to be undistracted, and that means by your body, too.
12. Interview your characters like you would a person in real life
Your characters are the core of your book. Readers want to relate to them, so they need to be real.
Interview your characters and jot down their answers. This will help you develop backstory and will really round out the people you’re putting in your book.
By Callum Sharp