Thursday, 13 November 2014

4 Things To Do Before You Write

1. Read a lot

Before you start writing your best-seller it goes without saying that you should have done at least some reading around your chosen genre. Before I started to write Jack Strong and the Red Giant (a Young Adults/Sci-fi novel) I had read the entire Harry Potter series about 2 or 3 times, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, George R.R Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, a lot of Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell novels plus an absolute tonne of modern and classical poetry. Not a great amount of course but certainly enough to give me a decent idea about how to write a novel, what kind of book I was looking to write, and a more than considerable amount of vocabulary. Without these books I would have had an insufficient literary foundation to base my book on - T.V and movies after all can only take you so far and are a poor guide to what works with the modern reader and what's currently getting published etc.

2. Use Your Imagination

Before I started writing my current novel, Dragon Rider I was constantly toying with the universe and the main plot threads in my mind, chipping away at them, and moulding the story and the characters into something that I wanted - no needed - to write. It was then and only then that I decided to sit down and have a go at writing the novel. Of course you can also jot down some notes about your novel - I do occasionally - though I find that my notes are never an adequate representation of my mind so I spend most of my time daydreaming about my future projects until a time comes when I'm satisfied with what my mind has come up with.

3. Make Notes Before You Write

Once I've actually sat down in front of my computer and decided to write a particular novel, I ALWAYS write down a few brief notes about what I'm going to write before I start tapping away at my computer (I never use a pen to write unless it's poetry). This acts as a kind of road map for my imagination to follow, so that I always know where I'm going, what's going to happen and when. This has two immediate benefits: first, I don't get stuck in any literary cul-de-sacs - I always know what comes next and if I get lost I can always go back and look at my notes, and second it allows me to pump out anywhere between 1000 and 3000 words in any one sitting (I typically write one chapter at a time). Of course I almost never stick to my notes absolutely - my imagination is an untamed beast apt to wander - but it is an invaluable guide nonetheless and one that I am loath to do without.

To give you a better idea check out my notes for Chapter 1 of my novel Dragon Rider:

Danny eating cornflakes. Pours milk – sour – throws it away - picks up a handful of cornflakes - Hears his mum calling for him (tired voice) what time is it? - Leaves and goes outside – gets on the bus after the driver decides to let him on. The bus rumbles along. Then the bully gets on. They laugh at his mum. He ‘s silent Jane (Chinese) sticks up for him. Time for school. He looks up at the grey school. It begins to rain …

It's all very basic as I'm sure you'll all agree, but it helps form an important conduit between my imagination and the keyboard, resulting in approximately 1000 words of manuscript.

4. Don't Be Afraid To Make Mistakes

Don't expect to be a great writer overnight. It takes work - a lot of work - and writing is a process of making mistakes, learning from them, and then (after remorselessly reviewing your work) getting gradually better. So don't let the fear of being no good paralyse your creativity - it might not be perfect initially but no one's is (Stephen King puts all of his books through 3 or 4 edits and my first book went through at least seven or eight before I was even remotely satisfied with it (and I've tweaked it a few more times since then). What matters most though is that you DO write and have the courage to go through it again and again, thus making it more readable and more publishable, because ultimately that's how all the great writers are made.

If you want to read my book Jack Strong and the Red Giant, about a bullied, 12 year old boy's adventures in space check out the link below:

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