What I learnt this week: 1st December 2016

Re-work or start again?

The advice given by most authors to anybody wanting to write a book, is to write. It sounds obvious, but the more you write, the better you get. I know this first hand, because I’m currently looking at the first book I ever wrote.

Oh boy.

I’m incredibly grateful that the only person who read this ‘masterpiece’, was me. Oh and possibly a few agents and publishers, but they won’t have made it past the first line, trust me. It was bad. At the time though, I must have thought it was as good as it could be. After finishing it, I wrote another book, and then another. And then another. Importantly, I also started to get feedback on my writing, and ultimately it was working on that feedback – thank you RNA New Writers’ Scheme – that led to my publishing contract.

But what about that first book I wrote?

Well I still love the story, so I’ve decided to go back to it.  With six published books under my belt I know a little more about what I’m doing, because six published books means six lots of very valuable editorial feedback. I’ve learnt:

– less is more. Every word has to count, so internalising her thoughts and then getting her to speak about pretty much the same thing, is a definite no, no.

– the old adage show not tell is used a lot by writers for a reason. I need to stop telling the reader what my characters are thinking and start to show them. It’s much more interesting to have the hero clench his fists, grip the glass, punch a wall, than say he was angry.

– make every scene have a purpose. I’ve read through pages of my manuscript and wondered why on earth I wrote it. How was it meant to move the story along, or show an element of character we hadn’t seen before?

– create some tension. My hero and heroine didn’t hit it off in the first few chapters, but after that they were far too ‘nice’ to each other. It doesn’t have to be angry, angst ridden dialogue, but if everything is hunky dory there isn’t much point to the rest of the book.

– stilted dialogue makes you cringe. There’s no way real people talk to each other the way my hero and heroine were. Repeating what they’re saying out loud can really help understand where it’s going wrong. My characters were sounding like they were in a bad fifties movie.

So is there any point to re-working this manuscript? Am I not better forgetting about it and starting again?

Probably! But I’ve started now and at least by going through the old version I have an outline to guide me. I also have the reward of knowing I’ve improved 🙂





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