While living in Nerja, Spain, I met a retired teacher who emigrated to Andalucia in 2011. Although I rarely criticise people, he was the most boring man that I’ve ever met. When he discovered that my hobby was creating unusual stories, he said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’ve led such an interesting life, teaching in many countries as I travelled around the world.
Will he write a book? Who can tell, but miracles sometimes happen?
So what is the most important part of creating a story apart from research, creating characters and planning the storyline. The answer is simple: put pen to paper or fingers on keyboard and begin writing.
One famous author, who offered advice, said: “limit your research to two weeks then begin writing”. Two weeks wasn’t enough. I needed info on magic, warlocks and witches, the ancients, the Basques, especially Juan Zuria, the mythical first lord and founder of the Lordship of Biscay. History was important, as my books began thousands of years ago, and continued into the future. My research continued throughout the writing process.
Full length novels: I write the beginning, which is often difficult but eventually it flows. Then I write the end.
In truth, writing a book isn’t easy; it takes dedication. Inevitably mistakes are made. Finding them, at least for me, is the hard bit. Had I thought about my book first prior to beginning writing, I would have chosen a simpler story that didn’t involve lots of characters or cover thousands of years.
If you are capable of starting and finishing your book, knowing that it will be difficult, then continue reading. If not, don’t bother as it will be a waste of time. Forgive my bluntness, but I am a Yorkshire woman.
Tip 1: Read, extensively. I find this comment patronising as surely every wannabe author is also an avid reader. Then decide which genre you enjoy and the ones you don’t. Consider how the author moves the story along. And, IMHO, it is important to get to know your characters better than you know yourself.
Very Important: take a creative writing course. I completed an online course while living in Spain. It proved invaluable. In addition, my daughter offered advice as she wrote many short stories. As far as writing is concerned, I’m confident. It’s important to believe in yourself. Be positive. After finishing the course, you will know whether or not you are talented enough to write a novel.
Stick to what you know and develop your “own voice”.
Decide on the genre. I stick to fantasy fiction as this is my favourite but recently I’ve also written a compilation of short stories and flash fiction. They cover many subjects. It’s good practice, and a challenge. I love a challenges but abhor failure.
Planning: I write three pages covering the whole story; create a “family tree”; describe each character, then I choose (more often then not) to create a fictional island). Most of my stories are based in the Bermuda Triangle area, the Moray Firth, and the small isles… mostly Rùm.
Forwarding planning is important, but I wrote a story of eleven-thousand words plus without any forward planning other than a family tree. Apparently, it is my best work.
My first three novels fitted into several genres or sub-genres from futuristic, through high/dark fantasy to science fiction.
I enjoy breaking rules: that’s what makes me tick. Try it, and you’ll be surprised how much you accomplish if you allow your imagination free rein.
Complete a draft and set it aside for a few days.
I believe that a synopsis should the first step. It is very important. Frankly, I’d rather a 100,000 plus word novel than attempt a synopsis. It is, at least for me, a challenging task.
Editing your own book: I have a wonderful little book that gives advice on editing. It proved invaluable.
Whenever I delete a chapter that doesn’t live up to expectations, I cut and paste it into a new document and save it under a folder called “Rejects”.
Discipline: I don’t allow myself to be side-tracked by computer Solitaire, Mahjong or the Sudoku games I love. My TV is turned off. When I venture outdoors, I pop a notebook and pen into my handbag. Inspiration comes at the most inconvenient times. Generally, when I’m enjoying a cup of coffee and a scone in Grind.
And last, but definitely note least: don’t give up. When I experienced writer’s block, I was told to put pen to paper or fingers on keyboard and write anything that comes into your mind. Eventually, he said, the good stuff will come. And it did. I deleted the rubbish and continued writing.
I recently binned eight short chapters of the third part of my trilogy. I didn’t enjoy listening to the story using Microsoft Read Aloud, so why would anyone else enjoy it?
The best feeling in the world is typing “The End” or “To be continued”.
Find a trusted friend or relative, who is known for his or her honesty, and request an appraisal. Be prepared! After a year of hard work, and a rather blunt appraisal (from my late daughter) for my first book, I binned the book. I spent weeks practicing and eventually developed my own writing style.
Books 1 and 2 of the trilogy were published Amazon KDP in 2021. These are no longer for sale as I decided to edit them, extensively! When I’m ready, I will republish but not until I’m happy with all three books which will be published in Kindle format.