I recently took part in a literary festival, where I was asked to give tips to budding writers. I, by no means, consider myself an expert on the subject but I have had seven romance novels published, three of which have been translated into foreign languages. I have written short stories and reviews for magazines and newspapers. I am a guest blogger on a number of platforms and I have recently turned my hand (or typing fingers) to writing for screen. So, on the basis of having some knowledge, I answered the question and thought I would share my response on the blog.
Here are my top ten tips for writers:
1. WRITE. I know, I know, everyone leads with this one. You've heard it before. Well, the reason you've heard it before is because it is fundamental. Talking about writing isn't writing. If you want to be a writer, you must put pen to paper, fingers to laptop or mouth to dictaphone. Get that story written!
2. READ. Every writer should first be a reader. Read in the market/genre you are writing and read widely. Take Inspiration. Learn what works and what doesn't both from your point of view and that of the market. Book clubs are a great help with this. I love being part of a bookclub because it forces me to read books that I probably wouldn't otherwise pick up.
3. OBSERVE. If you aren't already, become a people watcher. Watch how people move, how they speak to each other (crucial for natural dialogue in fiction books), how they react to certain situations. Soak up your surroundings. Whether you realise it or not, every life experience you have will shape the kind of writer you are.
4. TO PUBLISH OR NOT TO PUBLISH? You have, no doubt, read something like this before... "Write for the love of writing, not for anyone else", yes? I agree. You should love what you are writing and you should enjoy writing. That's the dream, isn't it? But my take is this - from the outset, decide whether you are writing with a view to having your book published or whether this is a project for your own eyes only.
4(a) If you are writing for yourself, enjoy it. Write whatever you like, whenever you want to.
4(b) If you are writing with a view to being published one day, read on to 5.
5. FOLLOW MARKET TRENDS. Know where your book would fit into the market. What is topical/selling now? No matter which publishing route you choose (see 9, below), it is important to know how you will pitch your book to agents/publishers/readers. If you are writing romance, for example, familiarise yourself with the conventions of the genre and make sure you tick those necessary criteria boxes (e.g. happily ever after or happy for now). There is some scope to experiment and cross genres but if you want that first novel to be published and easily marketed, you might want to stick within the boundaries - you can always tweak your style when you become established.
6. EDIT. EDIT. EDIT. You may think your book is perfect. It isn't. Chances are it never will be. But if you don't submit to agents/publishers the best version of your book you can produce (without their further input), your chances of obtaining a contract for representation or a publishing deal are significantly reduced.
7. BUILD A PLATFORM. It can be painful at times. It can feel like a distraction from writing. BUT the best way to build a platform/voice for yourself and your books is online. Choose your preferred social media outlets so as to not get too bogged down (I stick with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook). Set up an easy to follow, informative and pretty website. Blog either on your own channel or through other sites (guest blogging). Consider other formats too, like writing short stories, reviews or freelance articles for magazines and newspapers. It all helps build your brand and get your name out there.
8. NETWORK. Force yourself to go to book/author/art events. Once you've built your online platform, get it into the book world by interacting with fellow authors, readers, bloggers, marketeers and industry professionals (Twitter is a great arena for this). You never know when your contacts might come in handy. And remember, you can't just be take, take, take. Invest time in using your skills to help others too.
9. RESEARCH PUBLISHING METHODS. These days there are multiple routes to bring your book to market. My preference (to be explained another time) is for traditional publishing but I have self-published one title too, in a bid to compare routes. Some authors prefer self-publishing and the freedom it offers. There's also no reason why you can't do both and become a 'hybrid' author. Do some research - there are lots of blogs and articles written on the various routes - and work out what feels most natural to you.
10. GET THE WRITERS' AND ARTISTS' YEAR BOOK. Get a copy of this annual publication. It has a vast amount of useful hints and tips on writing and publishing. It has guidance on self-publishing and an extensive list of active agents and publishers, including what they are currently acquiring and how you should submit to them (their own websites are also a great source of information).
I hope you find this in some way useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. And GOOD LUCK! If you're reading this, you're already on your way to becoming a writer.
Laura Carter is the international bestselling author of the Vengeful Love series. Her books are available internationally in English and Italian. Laura writes contemporary romance and women's fiction from her country home in Jersey (UKCI), where she lives with her husband and (gorgeous) dog. She loves all things romance, including paper hearts, flowers, chocolates and champagne (not necessarily in that order). If she isn't writing or hanging around on social media, you can probably find her watching a romcom with a tub of Ben and Jerry's.
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