Anyone can write a book. It’s easy. (Yeah right! Easy for me to say I hear you thinking?) But if you’re reading this I’m guessing you want to write more than just words on pages. You want to write a masterpiece to inspire people, you want to write a story of emotion that makes people laugh and cry, you want to write a potential best-seller that people talk about and remember … and that is not easy … I’m still working it out for myself.
And before I begin, I would just like to add that writing a book is the easiest and most enjoyable part to becoming a well-established author … I hope that hasn’t put you off.
This is going to sound very hypocritical of me because I didn’t plan Living a Nightmare from the start or the first three books I’ve written. But I’ve learnt from my mistakes! Quickly write down all your ideas and start building links between them such as how characters meet and how one event can lead to another. Then sequence your ideas from the start to the end and everything in the middle. Once you start writing don’t worry about changing your ideas but trust me it helps to know where you are going so that you don’t get bogged down in endless pages of mindless rabble that have no objective and only have to be edited out. So many times have I had loads of ideas in my head and I think I know what I’m doing with them but it’s not until they are written down that I can start playing with them and form them into a storyline that flows soundly. Planning can be fun, honestly! It’s where you can write your best ideas down and create better ones. It doesn’t even take a long time. I vaguely planned the whole of Sleeping Reality (the sequel to Living a Nightmare) in one night. Pages and pages worth of unintelligible writing to most, to me; a piece of work I am very proud of. Admittedly Sleeping Reality is my most complex storyline so far with 7 almost separate plots which have to be intertwined, it would be impossible to write without planning. But even simple jotting down of ideas can help craft the story so the reader can tell the author is going somewhere with their writing. You can’t plan everything, one of the biggest twists at the end of Veil of Anonymity came to me at the end of writing the book, meaning I’m having to adapt the story so the twist seems bigger and better than it was when it first came to me, but that’s writing for you. If you’ve already started writing then I’d recommend you writing a plan now as your story will come increasingly complex as your characters and plot develop into more than you would ever imagine. Even though Sleeping Reality is my most complex book it’s the easiest to write because in the plan I have written down exactly what happens in every chapter and I know exactly where I’m going with the story line. Planning also means that you don’t forget ideas that you want to write later in the book.
2. Use experiences
If your book is fiction you aren’t going to write about real events but you can use real feelings. In Moonlight Possession there is a scene where Lorna is lost in the woods at night. So one January morning last year I got up early to do my paper round and cycled to the woods at 6am. I got off my bike and walked into the woods in the pitch black, I couldn’t see more than 5 metres in front of me. Just to scare myself a little more I walked off the pathway and into the thick of the trees. I wanted to feel the branches that I couldn’t see on my face as I tried to fight my way through the trees. I wasn’t in Lorna’s position because I wasn’t lost and I went there by choice but it was bloody scary and it put me in a much better position to write that scene than if I had just imagined it while sat at my laptop. Plus, writing a book gives you an excuse to do these crazy things. I have never been trapped in a burning building or come face to face with a murderer but I have experienced feelings of fear and helplessness that I could use when writing these scenes. I have never been in a car crash but I dreamt the crash that Grace was in which started Living A Nightmare. I have never experienced it in real life but in my head when I was dreaming it was real at the time so I was able to use that dream to begin writing. You have to live to add that human touch to your story and integrating real experiences with the made up will add a lot to your writing.
3. Use imagination
With your characters you can do anything, be anyone and go anywhere. You can do and say whatever you like, you can’t be too forward or controversial in a book because it’s not technically you who’s saying it. Don’t waste your opportunity to be creative. I have said before that planning is crucial. But if, when you are writing you find your story drifting in another direction, let it, if that is the direction you want the story to take. You can always draw up a new plan. While writing I’m sure your story and characters will take you on journeys you never expected to go down. You’ve got to use your new ideas and change what you’ve written previously to cooperate with them. If you want to get from event A to event B, use your imagination. The first thing that comes into your head may not be best, keep thinking of exciting ways to make event B happen. Remember, the stages between each event are just as important as the events themselves and you don’t want your reader to get bored. Playing with the story is the fun part, it’s where you can put subtle clues in for the reader or send them on a completely different path. Use what you have written and make it better, funnier or scarier. It is your story, don’t be afraid to do what you want with it. You are playing God … be imaginative and adventurous.
You can’t be an author without reading books and lots of them. I’m a young adult author so I read books from my age range but I also read fantasy, crime and a few from other genres. Reading helps me see what other authors have done right and what I believe they have done wrong. Their writing styles, how they open chapters, how the characters interact with each other help me with the flow of my books. You can’t copy what other authors have written word for word but by reading you expand your vocabulary and think of better and more subtle ways to describe things. Also, reading helps with punctuation so you learn how to use a semi-colon correctly and the difference between effect and affect become natural. There are so many techniques you pick up on subconsciously when you are reading such as sentence structure and building tension which will help you with your writing without you even realising it. Also, I hope that if you are writing a book you enjoy reading so it shouldn’t be such a hard thing I’m suggesting.
5. Believe it
It’s fiction so I know it’s not real but in my mind, when I’m writing, my characters are real to me. The best books, films and TV programmes are when you get so involved in the storyline that it’s almost real. If you want readers to get attached to your book, you, as a writer, have to believe it. Even if you’re writing fantasy, you can still believe the emotions and feelings of your characters and if you get involved in the story it becomes easier to write. I once wrote for four hours solidly without realising it. It was light when I turned on my computer and pitch black when I next looked up. When I returned back to ‘reality’ it felt like waking up from a dream. It felt surreal but times like that, when you are completely emerged in your ‘other world’, is when you write your best and your book comes alive.