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You Can Write! Part Ten-Reader, I Love You…

Popular media has pruned the average attention span down to a few minutes. Pressure of work means reading time is often limited to an uncomfortable commute, or a few minutes before bed. It’s human nature to think I’ll just read to the end of this chapter. If you end each one with a hook or a piece of really strong, vivid writing, you’ll keep them keen.

Vary the length of your chapters as an incentive, to keep your reader turning the pages. If they find it hard to tear themselves away from your book, they’ll be raring to go next time they get a minute to relax. If they know they won’t necessarily have to set aside enough time to read a 4,000 word chapter, they’ll be even keener.

Varying the pace of your writing keeps your reader on their toes. Descriptive passages slow things down. Dialogue speeds it up. Plenty of white space leads them on, while too many dense pages of text encourages them to throw the book aside. Strike a balance. Give them with plenty of colourful, exciting jam with their textual bread-and-butter.
Never pad out your work with pointless description or backstory. If you’ve written a trilogy but two-thirds of it is info-dump, condense it into a single title instead. Don’t think of it as lowering your sights, or compromising your literary integrity.  It’s about improving the experience of people who read your book. Make every word a wanted word.

If your story is absorbing and your dialogue is well-written, you don’t need to identify every speaker every time. Too many “he said/she said” tags interrupt reading pleasure. Don’t use too many long words. Occasional technical terms in dialogue or scene-setting are fine as long as they leave your reader wiser, and move the action along.

Blog, Writing

You Can Write! Part Nine

A writer’s life is full of distractions: family life, the need to eat, the day job…the list of enemies goes on and on. Make sure you don’t put yourself on the list. It’s easy to become your own biggest enemy. Make time each day to write, and make sure you stick to it. If you miss more than a couple of sessions, you’ll get out of the writing habit. Frustration will affect your mood. You family won’t thank you, and your work—when you try to get back to it— will suffer.

Determination is a great asset in a writer but you need to build balance into your writing life. Make sure you don’t swing to the other extreme, and overdo it. Eat well, sleep well, and take regular breaks from crouching over your notepad or computer. However much you love your work, your health and family come first.

Use a good chair that supports your back when you’re working. Make the effort to sit up straight. Use wrist-rests and padded mouse-pads to avoid Repetitive Strain Injury.

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My Favourite Place To Unwind—Alex The Dog Loves This Walk.

There’s nothing like a walk and some people-watching in the fresh air to sharpen your imagination, and exercise helps prevent conditions like Deep Vein Thrombosis.
If you’re putting in long hours in front of a computer screen, get up every hour, on the hour,  to stretch. Taking a drink of water at the same time will keep you hydrated and alert. It’s also supposed to take the edge off your appetite for snacking, too, which should in theory help you lose weight. But then, we all know about weight-loss theories…

There are never enough hours in the day, but once you’ve hit your word count make sure you give your brain a real break, if only for half an hour. Turn off your computer and phone, forget social networking and escape somewhere with nothing more than a pencil and notebook.  Doodle, plan, fantasise – it doesn’t matter what you do, the act of making marks on paper is an exciting contrast to hammering away at a keyboard.

Blog, Writing

You Can Write! Part Eight

pexels-photo-279415Once you’re in the flow of writing, enjoy it. Don’t let anything distract you. Concentrate your literary firepower on the most important person in your audience – you. Always put your own writing pleasure before profit. If you can sit back after finishing a piece and say “I really enjoyed doing that!” then you’ll never need to sell a word (unless the bailiffs are hammering at your door. That–or death–is the only excuse for abandoning a writing session).

Let your key skill of imagination run riot. Draw up detailed biographies for your characters.  Create Pinterest boards using pictures that suggest the people and places involved in your work in progress. Interview your hero and/or heroine in your head. Live with your characters until you’re as close to them as you are to your own family.

If you’re hoping to get your work published, find out exactly what your potential readers want, and give it to them. Nothing less (or more) will do. Writing for profit doesn’t work in the same way as producing meals for children. You can’t give them what you want to create and say; ‘you’ll have this, and like it.’ or, ‘how can you say you don’t like it, if you’ve never tried?’

fountain-pen-447575_1920Your reader has the ultimate right of veto. If you want to sell your writing, fit your work to your audience. The beauty of fiction is that once you know what your audience wants, you can tailor your writing around them. Your characters can be as outspoken as they like, within your readers’ boundaries. Mice or men, political affiliations or none, the only two unbreakable rules about the people in your books is that they have to be interesting, and they must always act in character.

Always work toward giving your readers the perfect read. Make them care about your characters, and what happens to them. Grab them with the first sentence on Page One, and don’t let go. Your audience is hungry for action, whether it’s romance or drama. They want to escape from their everyday lives into a different reality. Create heroes and heroines for them, with whom they can relate. Give those characters aspirations, a job to do and a journey to complete during the course of your book, whether it’s a physical one or an emotional transformation. Let your characters grow and change through the course of your book. Above all, make them complex and multi-dimensional.

Blog, Writing

You Can Write! Part Seven

In the first six blog posts in the You Can Write! series, we’ve discovered how to make a start on that writing project you’ve had in mind for such a long time. To catch up on any episodes you might have missed, clicked here, then scroll forward through the arrows at the bottom of the first post, or use the images at the top of the blog.

Don’t panic of your writing hits a dry patch. Visit your own particular well of inspiration, even if it’s only snatching a nap. Take a walk. Read a book—although it’s a good idea to choose something outside of the genre you’re working with. The brain has a squirrel-like tendency to hoard things. You don’t want to subconsciously incorporate something from somebody else’s work.

Odd though it sounds, sometimes you can achieve more by trying less. There will be times (if you’re a fan of Red Dwarf, or The Simpsons) when you’ll be tempted to write “I am A Fish” or “S***w Flanders” multiple times rather than face making up the several hundreds, or even thousands, of different words that make up your daily tally. Fine. Go ahead. Write any old thing you like, but try and make it constructive. If you’re writing a book, try a session of journaling instead. If you’re having trouble with fiction, try drafting a non-fiction article about your writing experience. This worked for me, and resulted in me getting the contract to write Struggle and Suffrage In Bristol! Sometimes the simple act of getting a few words down in front of you frees your mind to create a lot more.

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Coming Soon! Find out more here

If it doesn’t, you’ll still have broken your duck. You won’t be faced with a blank page when you return for your next writing session. You’ll find it a lot easier to whip a page of random jottings into shape than it would be to open up a whole new blank page and start again from cold. Remember Scarlett O’Hara’s maxim that tomorrow is another (and probably better) day–and she was living in a war-zone.

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Stratford-On-Avon, twinned with Venice. And Cyprus. And…

One cliche every list of writing tips includes is ‘write what you know’. It’s a cliché, because it works. Everybody on this earth is an expert in something, and that’s their own life experiences. It’s a rich seam to mine, so get digging.

Instead of stressing about creating something that’s 100% fiction, go back over your own memories and see what inspiration you can find. That doesn’t mean you should regurgitate your life story, and nothing else. Did Shakespeare murder his wife over a pocket-handkerchief, as Othello did? No. Did Thomas Hardy hang children from clothes hooks? No, but both writers used their own experiences of human nature, desire, jealousy, shame and misery to colour their fiction.

Blog, Writing

You Can Write! Part Six

Off You Go!

pexels-photo-279415.jpegThere’s an old joke about one party guest asking another what they’re working on at the moment. “Writing a book,” comes the reply. “Neither am I,” says the first guest.

Don’t be like that. Make sure you write something every single day, even if it’s only making notes. You’ve got all the talent you need to get started.  You’re happy you’ve chosen the right genreYou know your characters by name, and you’ve created a potted history for the central players in your drama.

Set yourself a target for the number of words you’ll write. If you don’t have time to make inroads in your major work in progress, try something smaller. Write letter to the local paper about a subject that matters to you. Magazines publish letters and anecdotes for readers. They also offer an outlet for short stories. Study each publication individually, to make sure you know exactly what they want, and the type of stories they publish. Send them something of the right length which shows you’ve paid attention to their requirements, and it increases your chances of your work being accepted.

Give yourself a target. Aim high, and use S.M.A.R.T goals to help you—that acronym means they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited. “I’m going to write a 60,000 word historical romance by 31st December this year” is the type of detailed ambition I’m talking about, which will set you on the path to success.

Put your ambition in writing, and display it somewhere you and other people can see it. That way, you won’t be able to back out!

Work out how many words you’ll need to write each day to hit your target, then do at least that amount of work during every writing  session. Use every trick you can think of to keep yourself motivated. Give yourself little rewards for completing your daily word count. If you’re having trouble making the grade, invent a forfeit such as no fries or cake until the work’s done (that works well for me). Find a writing partner to encourage you when things get tough. Then you can cheer them on, when they need encouragement.

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There’s nothing like seeing your name in print, whether it’s on a letter to a magazine, an article, or the cover of a book.

Make sure your mind is trained on your ultimate prize, whether that’s writing a book, a short story or a magazine article. Wanting to write isn’t enough. You must believe with all your heart you can finish your project. You’ll need that belief to get through the hours of research, writing, re-writing, and the inevitable rejections, which hit us all from time to time.

You know you can do it. Now all you have to do is prove it – to me, and everyone else. Go on. Start writing today.

I dare you!