As a new author I’ve learned a lot in a very short time; many things through on-line articles and wonderful books and some things the hard way.
- WRITING TIME MUST BE A TOP PRIORITY. When I set aside time to write each day, nothing short of life and death emergencies can get in the way of it. This time is mine. I shut myself away in peace and quiet and concentrate solely on my writing for the period that I’ve set aside for myself. My phone is turned off and I use the internet for research purposes only.
- CREATE A STRONG STORY OUTLINE FIRST. The first, and best, book I read on novel writing was Write Away by Elizabeth George. It helped me immensely to become an organized, prepared and yet creative writer. She suggests writing a story outline before anything else. Mine are usually five to eight pages, single spaced. I know the basic details of the entire story before I start.
- CREATE CHARACTER BIOGRAPHIES FOR ALL IMPORTANT CHARACTERS. This is another thing I learned from Write Away and it’s been critical for me as I write my novels. I regularly refer to these bios as I work my way through my chapters. Bios for my MCs are usually four to six pages, single spaced. It tells me everything about their background, personality and appearance. I know them as well as my own sister or brother when I’m finished with their bio. The bios of less significant characters run from two to three pages. I highlight in bold the names of relatives to each character so that I can easily spot them when I refer back to the bio as I write.
- PREPARE A THREE RING BINDER FOR EACH PROJECT. This is a simple activity. My binders contain tabs for the story line, a bio for each character and a sheet inside a clear page protector that I move from notebook to notebook with all of my log-in and passwords to my social media and e-mail accounts. I might also throw notes in the front pocket. I much prefer having a hard copy to flip to quickly when I have a question like, “What was Heath’s wife’s name?” It’s helpful, too, when my writing comes to a standstill or I’m lost in the middle of a dialogue sequence. I reread the character’s bio and then I know exactly what my character will say and do. Also, having my story outline open at all times makes it easy for me to check myself every few pages to ensure I’m sticking to it. If I’m not (as sometimes happens) I want to be sure I like the path I’m heading down and that it won’t get me into trouble in the future.
- LET THE CHARACTERS TELL THE STORY. I have to laugh at myself. I thought writers were full of crap when I read this in articles. Until it happened to me, that is. I had the outline for my first novel written perfectly until the characters had different ideas. And, what they came up with was so much better than what I’d planned. It’s important to pay attention to this aspect of novel writing. If you’re careful, making sure that you don’t go down a path of no return, it can make a powerful story.
Did you learn unexpected things when you first began writing? What were some of the important things that you learned as a new author? I’d love to hear from you.