So, you’ve spent months/years/decades writing your book and for whatever reason(s), you’ve decided to self-publish. So what now? Here’s what I’ve learnt about the preparation part (that it would have been nice to know before…)
There’s a good article here by Niall Leonard on how to write (and prepare to write) a good crime story. It talks about working out who dunnit, the motive and how to uncover clues… very useful.
As my agent reminded me, a first page has to do so many things, e.g. set the time and place, introduce the main character, set up their motivations/dreams/desires, start the action, allude to where the book is going, etc. It’s one of the hardest things to do, although thankfully it’s possible to do the best revision of the first few pages at the end of the writing process, when you can pull everything together. There are some useful tools to help.
It’s the famous Mark Twain quote, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”. When aspiring authors get asked, “What’s your book about?”, it’s usually the time we scrunch up our face and tell people we prefer not to say, it’s bad luck, or we go shy. Most of the time, I think it’s because we can’t reduce what the hell we’ve spent months writing into one or two simple sentences.
The classic quote from Stephen King, “reading is writing” is every writer’s mantra but (good) films and television can also play their part. When done well, they can teach us how to craft tension, how to bring in characters without dumping backstory, how to resolve plots, etc. As a film and telly lover, watching the telly, or more accurately, reading scripts from successful (good) television shows, can really help your writing. The BBC is a great resource for this; they post scripts at the BBC Writer’s Room here. I’ve also listed the key books for any writer embarking on the writing process here.
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Some good advice from Pixar’s storyboard artist Emma Coats on the BookBaby blog, where she outlines her top rules to ensure people care about your characters. The article can be found here but these are the full 22:
It always interests me to read what famous authors say about the art of writing, almost as if by reading about how they go about the process, some of their successful habits might rub off on me; that I might improve, simply by learning how they have. So, I thought it might be interesting to compile a selection to see if there were any common threads (taken from the NYT and The Guardian).
It’s an interesting and useful compilation for aspiring writers, some very tongue in cheek but none better than Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing. RIP. It’s also (mostly) completely pointless because tips that work really well for some people, several others completely disregard, with two possible exceptions. The first is that everyone agrees that authors must be readers first and writers second. In the words of Stephen King*, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Secondly, I know how bloody hard it is to sit down and write a book – to actually get it finished – which ties into the final bit of advice that everyone seems to have. You need to just do it. No dilly dallying. Just planning, schedules and sweat. As Lionel Shriver said**, “Just get on with it. Don’t be ceremonial. It’s not a mystical process. Regard it as a job.”