While working on The Dream List today, I got thinking about everything writing a book has taught me. Sure, I’ve improved my writing craft and learned how to tell a story over an entire novel, but I’ve also learned more than that. So, here they are-
1. Writing a book is hard!
Extremely hard, but ultimately the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. There have been times where I’ve had absolutely no idea how to proceed with the story but I’ve come through them and the story is ultimately better for it. Anyone who says writing a book is easy isn’t doing it right! I think it has to be difficult because the pay-off is much better when you know there have been bumps along the way.
2. You will edit. A lot.
Before starting The Dream List, I thought the mountain of editing required to make a novel perfect was an urban myth designed to scare aspiring writers! How wrong I was! During my frequent read-throughs, I found myself looking at it a lot differently than when I was writing it. I got an imaginary red pen out and ended up culling swathes of what I thought was lovely prose because it didn’t enhance the story in any way. It made for nice reading but it jarred with prose that actually progressed the plot. I must admit, I had a little cry when cutting one of my favourite paragraphs out! I changed dialogue when it didn’t fit, changed the plot direction several times and cut out dozens of minor characters. You will too- but that’s okay. Yes you may love George’s Auntie Muriel but if she doesn’t serve any purpose in the story, she needs to go.
3. Promoting is as important as writing.
Without my blog and Twitter account, nobody except my family and friends would know about The Dream List! Putting the word out about your book is definitely as important as writing one. I’ve gained so many more followers through my tweets and blog posts. It’s a good practice to get into for if you eventually get a book deal; you’ll have to do lots of promotional work before and after your book hits the shelves.
4. A novel in one draft? Keep dreaming!
OK, confession time. I used to think I could write The Dream List in one draft! Naive, I know, but I’ve since learned that one draft just won’t cut it. I actually have the first draft of the story and it makes me genuinely cringe inside! If I’d kept going with it, I’d have a very different story to the one I have now. And it would almost certainly not be better! I’m currently on draft 4 and have got further with it than with any other previous draft.
5. Twitter is my best friend- and best marketing tool
This kind of goes back to what I was saying about promotional work. I’ve tweeted about my writing journey pretty much since I started and have met loads of like-minded people as a result. The support I’ve had when I’ve been banging my head against a metaphorical brick wall has been invaluable. Twitter is a great thing to be involved in; both for marketing and personal purposes. There are loads of aspiring writers keen to connect with like-minded people (myself included!) and they are more than happy to provide advice/support. It’s also a great way to discover some amazing talent. Can’t Live Without by the lovely Joanne Phillips is one of my favourite books. I discovered it after she began following me on Twitter.
6. Never give up. Ever.
You WILL get there. Some sections can be an absolute nightmare to write and, if you find yourself going completely nuts, take a step back and relax. Walk the dog (if you have one), have a cup of tea or watch some truly crap TV (the good kind like Come Dine With Me or Four in a Bed) then go back to it later. I often find my best ideas come when I’m taking Dixie, my Westie, for a walk or having a relaxing bath. I found the New Year’s Eve scene in The Dream List SO hard to write, so I left it for a few days then went back to it. It’s changed around five times now and I’m finally happy with it.
7. Live your dreams
Since I’ve been writing about a girl who’s a similar age to myself going out and living her dreams, it’s made me realise the importance of living mine. I’ve had the burning desire to write for as long as I can remember and I’m going for it to make it happen. No matter what your dreams are, you can make them happen. All it takes is a little determination, faith in yourself and a little luck too.
My writing journey has taught me so much already and I’m sure I have a lot more learn as I continue it. What have you guys learnt since you started writing?