In a series of posts, we here at Nothing in the Rulebook have been asking writers to share their top tips and advice on writing. Today, it is our pleasure to bring you the top writing tips from YA Author, Lola Blake.
Every writer is different
Every writer is different and every book is written in a way that is unique to the author, as well as to the book itself. Some authors use formulas, other’s creative license. Some writers are night owls and work best at 3am, others get up early and write by the dawn light. As I said, every writer is different so some of these tips may not work for everyone, so take what you need from what I’m about to say. These are my top ten tips for settling into completing that pesky manuscript that’s been playing on your mind for a while. This is what works best for me, hopefully there’ll be a tip or two on the list that will work for you also. Enjoy!
Lola Blake’s Top Ten Writing Tips:
- Know your characters
Character motivation is what drives a narrative. If you understand your character’s reasons and motivations, the story will almost write itself. Think about your story’s main issue or point of contention, then consider; what does it mean to each and every character? How is your character(s) going to react to this news? Consider the voice and temperament of your characters. Before I start my manuscript, I like to write out a brief character summary of each and every player. I decide whether or not that person is headstrong or easy-going, manipulative or level-headed. I refer to my notes before I put any dialogue on paper.
- Find a method to your madness
When Stephen King puts pen to paper, his ideas are driven by his imagination. He has no plan or rough storyline drawn out, he just goes with it and ends up where his clever mind takes him and this method has proven successful for him. For me, personally, I’d get tangled up in a web of my own convoluted ideas, if I went with that method. I write my ideas out on paper and then try to come up with a timeline of cause-and-effect events to that there’s no gaps in my narrative. This works best for me. Some writers take this a step further and write out blow-by-blow synopsis for each and every chapter. This also wouldn’t work for me. To each, their own, but find something that works for you.
- Don’t procrastinate
I lost months, maybe even years, of potential writing time by waiting to feel ‘inspired’ to write something. Over the past couple of years, since I became a published author, I’ve learned that free time is the best time to write. Even if your mind is blank, you’re feeling tired or particularly unmotivated, once your fingers start scrambling across the keyboard, the words will come to you. I’ve written some of my best pieces during times of apparent lethargy. I disconnected my pay TV and now I keep my laptop in the living room, in plain sight. It helps!
- Know how to overcome writer’s block
Nothing on your mind? No words coming out? Can’t think of an interesting predicament, scenario or character to get your thoughts on paper? Take an ipod, listen to some cool tunes and go for a walk in the fresh air. A long walk! I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but it certainly works for me. Lots of ideas will come to you when you’ve got nothing to think about except the scenery and the music will stir up different emotions to get your synapsis firing.
- Get some sleep
No-one ever won a literary prize for something they wrote when they were sleep deprived. Sleeplessness has the same effect on the mind as intoxication. I should know, I tried to write the first chapter of my second book while looking after a newborn. When I read it back a few weeks later, I couldn’t believe the garbled crap I had been prepared to put on the shelf! When my little one started sleeping through the night, I rewrote the chapter and felt much better.
- Keep reading!
Whenever I hear someone say ‘oh, I’d really like to be a writer, but I hate reading’ I wonder why on earth they’d choose writing as a profession in the first place. Read a range of books, have at least one book on your bedside table, read when you’re on the train, even if it’s only for twenty minutes or so every day, but keep reading! It’s good for the soul, it opens you to new ideas and reading is great for keeping you up to date with grammatical structures and literary language.
- Think about your audience, but not too much
Granted, if you’re writing a Young Adult novel it’s probably not a good idea to fill it full of F-Bombs, however, many writer’s get bogged down in the idea that they have to produce a book within the guidelines of a particular formula, to appeal to a certain market. Whether or not there’s truth in the idea, I couldn’t tell you, but I can tell you this; so many authors burn out creatively trying to write a book that’s interesting to others but not to themselves. If there’s an idea that’s interesting to you, explore it. Write the book you’d want to read yourself and chances are, someone else will like it too.
- Manage your time
Decide when you’d like to complete your manuscript, set a date and then work out a schedule to achieve it. Most people that know me, can vouch that I’m an organisational Nazi, but I’ve also never missed a deadline in my life.
- Ignore self-doubt
You’re your own worst critic. No-one else will ever judge your work as harshly as you. Don’t be scared of rejection, it happens to everyone and no-one experiences rejection as often as a writer, so don’t be scared to send that manuscript. Send it to as many publishers as you can. Send it until you get that ‘yes’ response, or exhaust every avenue trying.
- Be proactive on social media
Lots of writers find social media exhausting (and it is!). Getting your name out there, updating your website constantly, connecting with your fan base, all of these things can be just as exhausting as the writing process itself, but it’s worth it! Even established writers use social media to connect with their readers, so don’t ever underestimate the power of social media. Even when it feels like you’ve been treading water for ages, you never know when someone’s going to click on a link to your website or Amazon author’s page. Persistence is the key!
About the author
Lola Blake writes both adult and young adult fiction. She grew up in Australia’s Surf Coast Shire, before moving to Melbourne to study creative writing. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, she spent the next ten years trying out various careers and travelling, before finally deciding on teaching. Her first novel, Coming Home was written in eight weeks, during a visit to the seaside. She now lives in Melbourne with her husband and daughter and still retains her love for the beach. She tweets as @LolaBlakes