Purveyor of Tall Tales.

Things What I Learned

I’ve been chattering on about my novel for long enough. Obviously some of this has – hopefully – imparted some wisdom along the lines of not doing what I do i.e. setting wildly unrealistic deadlines. However I’ve learned loads through this project, about myself, about writing and about fiction; mainly I’ve learned through mistakes and that’s part of what makes it fun. I thought it might be of use:*

1. There are no rules – The most important lesson, requires constant re-enforcing courtesy of a state education.

2. First drafts should be written as fast as possible – if you can’t write quickly at least separate the creative process from the editing process, for example: write in the morning, edit in the evening; or vice versa; or write in the week and edit at the weekends; you get the idea.

3. World building is not wasted time – if you’re writing other world fantasy or SF you need to generate as much material as possible here to avoid running out…quite literally…of ground around the middle of Act Two.**

4. Leave time between drafts.

5. Don’t leave too long between drafts – a fortnight is probably enough and if you leave it longer then you – like me – will find yourself working on the manuscript years after the first draft and rewriting simply to reflect what you’ve learned in the interim. At some point you have to move on.

6. Plotting by scene cards is really useful.

7. Plotting by scene cards is the devil’s work.

8. Plot happens whether you plan it or not. Go with whatever gets the thing finished.

9. Never try to incorporate a ideas that don’t ring true for you. Even if it’s meant to be a pastiche or tribute to another writer, include what’s true for you – you may even create something new and, even if you don’t, I guarantee your readers will thank you for it.

10. Copy edits are best done by reading the text aloud. That way you are forcing yourself to think as a new reader, if you can’t say it they won’t be able to read it.

And of course never forget the unwritten rule: always check you haven’t inadvertently picked a Kevin Bacon film as your story title.

*Although I’d encourage you to find out for yourself.
** Please believe me on this – you do not want to be doing research and redefining the landscape in the middle of drafts.

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