Top Tips from our Editor Karen
1. Work out your plot before you start writing. Some authors maintain that their books have a life of their own and they don’t have to plot in advance. For the rest of us mere mortals, it’s a big help to know what’s going to happen before we start writing. If we don’t, we run the risk of stalling half way through because we’ve written ourselves into a corner.
2. Remember that your readers only know what you tell them – they are not psychic. Give them clues and teasers about what’s going to happen but don’t make these so obscure that your audience will miss them. When you reread your work, try to see it from the point of view of someone who has never met your characters before. Is your meaning clear? The fastest way to put a reader off is to confuse them!
3. Develop a time line. Put events in chronological order so that you know when they happen – then draw up a chart that shows how these events fit together and pin it up in front of your desk. This is particularly useful if your novel moves backwards and forwards in time, or if it involves a lot of characters. The way that you sequence events for your readers is up to you – maybe you have action in different places happening at the same time, maybe your central character has flashbacks – but you need to make sure that the sequence is clear and your audience don’t lose the plot.
4. Create character files. You need to know your main characters as well as you know your own family if they’re going to become real people on the page. What do they look like? What are their likes/dislikes? What is their history? What do they read/eat/do in their spare time? Start by listing factual information about each character. Add to your dossier by ‘interviewing’ them and noting down what other characters in your book think about them. Include pictures of real people they resemble and places they frequent. (Note to self: not all heroes look like George Clooney however much I might want to have his pictures plastered all over my office wall.) Try to get as much information as you can together before you start your novel and keep referring back to the files.
5. Write every day. Even when you’re busy, even when the self-doubt monkey is sitting on your shoulder telling you that you should take up knitting rather than spend any more time on this writing business, put a few words down on the page. All writers have good days and bad days; the professionals know that however grim you feel, you have to persevere.