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12 writing tips

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Use a pencil when editing a printed manuscript; pen ink blots out essential notes.

If I go off-tangent, lose the plot, or back myself into a corner, I retrace my steps to the place I went wrong. Then I veer down another path and switch the character, change the tense or begin the chapter again from a different POV.

I tend to finish my writing spells in the middle of an action scene, or partway through a dialogue. That tactic makes it easier to pick up from where I left off.

Joining a Book Club forced me to appraise and discuss novels from genres I wouldn’t usually read, which is helping me gain varied perspectives.

Always have a notebook and pencil beside your bed, in your pocket/bag /purse. Not a pen – see above – and apart from blots, pens leak. Sending text messages to myself works for me. I record visual impressions, overheard conversations of sadness, helplessness, confusion and happiness and unique turns of phrase.

I never mind waiting in airports; time well spent observing people. You find all the emotions there, grief, joy etc.

Appreciate any professional critique that compliments your craft. This valued praise will propel you towards your goal.

Some prologues work well. They’re good if included for the right reasons. Most fill a backstory that’s better incorporated into the body of the novel. 

Sometimes I write about what I know personally. There is authenticity in words that writers share about their own experiences. (James Herriot, Dick Francis and Patricia Cornwell for example) More often, I prefer to learn about new subjects – art, guns, drug smuggling, the internal procedures and systems of an operating theatre – and use those themes to expand my understanding of the world, and not bore readers by being a smart-aleck on one topic.

In early drafts. I was guilty of including lots about my particular fields of expertise, and while they’re interesting to me, the feedback I received from beta readers, was that I was shoving unwanted information down their necks. The ability to draw on real-life skills is fantastic, but I’ve found that unless it applies to the story, a little goes a long way.

Drilling into subjects I’ve limited knowledge of, means lots of research, and that gets my imagination flowing. Dig deep; don’t just skim the surface.

Take a moment to read. Books are portals that have immeasurable influences, from knowledge expansion and enjoyment, to unlocking endless possibilities in our imaginations.

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