‘I’m going to write a book – one day.’
Does that sound familiar? I can’t tell you how many times people have said that to me. In fact, I used to say it to myself for years. After university, I became a magazine journalist because that seemed the best way to make a living until I had time and experience to write that novel. Fast forward fifteen years (and three children) and I still hadn’t done it.
So what got me going? Believe it or not, it was the combination of a thirty-something birthday and a new year resolution. ‘When are you going to write that best-seller you’re always talking about?’ asked a friend when all the corks were popping. And as everyone else started singing auld lang syne, I suddenly realised that if I didn’t start now, I might never do it.
That’s all very well but how do you get cracking if you have a job and a family? Well, here are some tips to set you on your way.
ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY – AND NOR IS A BEST-SELLER
It took me ten more years after that New Year’s Eve party to get my first book accepted. So if you don’t get an agent or a publisher as soon as you had hoped, just keep going. Real writers don’t give up. They can’t.
CHOOSE A SUBJECT WHICH EXCITES YOU
Romance is catching – both on the page and off it. If you are excited by your subject, it will leap off the page and hopefully, stir an agent.
WRITE FOR HALF AN HOUR (OR EVEN BETTER AN HOUR) EVERY DAY
No time? Try reducing your newspaper reading time (get your news from the radio instead). Or get up an hour earlier. Go to bed an hour later. Scribble in your lunch hour. Ask a friend to have the children and do a reciprocal swap.
DRAW UP AN ACTION PLAN FOR THE YEAR
Challenge yourself to write one chapter a week. That will be 52 by the end of the year. Make sure that something big happens in each chapter to keep the reader’s attention going. Each character needs to have a problem in order for the plot to keep moving. Ask yourself what he or she wants in life. Write a mini biography for every character in your book to help you understand him or her. What are they scared of? I help myself visualise my cast by cutting out pictures from magazines and sticking them on a cork board.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Find out what writing festivals you can get to in the year ahead and put the dates in your diary. Not all literary festivals are for published writers only. Some, like the Festival of Writing which is held in York in the autumn, offers one to one appointments with publishers and agents. This can be a great opportunity to get an expert interested in your manuscript.
TAKE OUT A SUBSCRIPTION TO A WRITING MAGAZINE
Writers Magazine and Writers Forum both have up to date news about new agents and publishers. I’ve personally found them invaluable. They also run competitions….
SET YOURSELF A CHALLENGE
Enter at least one magazine competition a month. It will give you discipline and help you to think about new subjects. If you win, that’s a bonus!
This November, enter the National Novel Writing Month.For details, visit the Nanowrimo website.
KEEP A SEASON DIARY
Note down descriptions of places you know and visit during the year. Include the colour of the leaves; the different blues in the sky; the feeling of waves on your legs as you go into the cold water; the smell of salt air. All this will come in useful for your book.
DON’T TELL EVERYONE YOU’RE WRITING A BOOK
If they do find out, keep the plot to yourself. Talking about it can take away the urge to write it.
NOW JUST DO IT!
Good luck – and let me know how you get on.
To find out more about Sophie King and her books, visit the Sophie King website.