For those of you contemplating writing a novel, I have some advice for you!
1. Get Started Writing!
Before I finished my novel I often thought about all the things I longed to write about. Sometimes I would even start writing. I’d write a few chapters, but then decide that my work wasn’t good enough or that no publisher under the sun would even consider it – so I stopped and found myself not finishing the book.
I have a few of these book beginnings lying in the dark realms of my computer where nobody but the bravest of men dares to travel. The good thing about them is that they were an exercise in writing and all exercise is good exercise. Practice makes perfect, they say and guess what – They are right!
So start writing, even if you don’t finish the book it will still be beneficial. Write about all the things you’re pondering while waiting for the bus or daydreaming at school. Write your heart out, write short stories, write longer stories, write half-stories, before you know it… you’ll have your first book!
2. Don’t Give Up!
Every writer gets to the point when they have no idea where their story is going or how they are going to collect all the loose ends and braid them into the perfect finale. In these situations I advise taking a long luxurious bath or even going out for a walk. The solution will come to you when you least expect it and forcing it is never a good idea, you’ll just end up with something you won’t be satisfied with. The important part is that if you’ve gotten about half of the way, you really should finish your story.
At some point during my writing I ended up grabbing a bunch of post-its and plastering them on a large mirror in my living room. I moved them to and fro, I added, I removed and in the end I had the perfect arrangement for my story. What I learned from this is not to stop until I was pleased with my work and that ended up being the right approach. This post-it madness wasn’t done overnight, it took about a week for me to arrange everything and I therefore say – take the time you need – you can’t force art!
3. Rewriting Is Your Friend!
I don’t know how many times I rewrote some of my chapters and today I’m glad I did, they turned out so much better because I took the time to think them over and write them again. There were of course a few that I only adjusted or tweaked but when you feel that your flow isn’t working well enough, your structure isn’t panning out or there’s just something you can’t put your finger on that you don’t like – begin from the beginning and write the whole thing again. In the end, she’ll be a beauty!
4. Cut Out the Middle Man!
Many of us struggle with letting go of some of our ideas or cutting out parts of our wonderfully thought out texts. I know how it feels, it’s almost like giving away your first born or pledging allegiance to the enemy. It, however, has to be done because when it comes to the written word – less is more.
My advice therefore is; copy your document, remove those extra pieces that don’t really belong in your beautifully flowing ideology and then read over both copies – preferably after some time has passed and you’ve distanced yourself from your work. You can also ask somebody else to read both copies and tell you which one is better. When working on a book this is easy since you can always continue working on different chapters while you’re letting the one you edited wait.
After making the painful sacrifice we often come to see that we were actually repeating ourselves or describing something in too much detail that doesn’t need to be so thoroughly described. In the end we’re all striving to create a beautiful piece of art and with a little bit of work and polishing – we will succeed!
5. Don’t Only Read It On Your Computer!
Over the years of reading through my texts I have learned that different reading methods will help me catch different kinds of errors. On my computer I will easily see structural problems; extra tabs, extra spaces and such. My computer also has a spell checker so it’s the best way to get rid of those pesky misspellings or extra letters.
Reading on paper will give you a different perspective. For some reason it will open your eyes to other types of errors, so grab that red pen and crispy warm paper from your printer and start going at it. Show no mercy, try to correct and fix everything you see. Mark things you aren’t fully happy about and don’t skip something because it “sort of works”, set the bar higher and show what you’re made of!
Reading out loud for somebody else makes you read slower. I have learned that this is a great way to catch the extra little flaws that are still hiding in your text. I recommend using it for the final run. Read from printed-out paper and read it for somebody that will enjoy your story and point out if they feel they aren’t following something. Besides being very useful it will also be a lot of fun for the both of you so I highly recommend it.
Becoming a writer is a lot of work. It’s not something that happens overnight. Rewriting will take much more time than actually writing and your ideas will evolve and even completely alter themselves. But what I can promise you is that it will all be worth it. When you’re holding a copy of your book in your hands, knowing that this is all because of you, you will feel the great pride and enjoyment that comes from contributing to the amazing world of the written word.