This is a special day for me. One of my favourite authors – Terry Tyler has decided to guest post on BlondeWriteMore.
Terry has written many books (my favourite is Best Seller BTW) and gives a lot back to the online writing community. She’s part of Rosie Amber’s book review team and shares a lot of her own writing wisdom in blog posts and articles.
What I love about reading Terry’s thoughts on writing is her engaging and witty tone. She always makes me feel like I am sat opposite her and we are having a creative chat over a coffee.
As Terry is my #authorcrush if we were having coffee in real life, I would be giving her one of my intense (some say weird) stares over a latte, pestering her for a selfie with me and asking her when I could come round for tea. She would be….checking her watch (a lot) and edging towards the door. Sigh!
So, here is the wonderful Terry Tyler.
When the lovely Lucy asked me to do a guest post for her, she suggested four subjects to write around. These were:
- Comparing yourself to other writers / authors
- Keeping going when things get tough / persistence
- Things your first novel taught you
- How to decide when it’s time to walk away from a story?
I couldn’t decide which one to choose so I’ve written a little on each one. I love reading other writers’ thoughts on the subject nearest to our hearts, so I hope you enjoy mine, too!
1. Comparing yourself to other writers.
I think we all do this, don’t we? I used to get that ‘I must be a crap writer’ feeling every time I read books filled with lyrical description, because painting beautiful scenes with words is not within my skill set. But then Mrs Sound Writing Advice herself, Rayne Hall, said this: Writing can be descriptive without being wordy—and wordy without being descriptive. That’s SO right, isn’t it? A hundred flowery adjectives don’t necessarily set a scene, and certainly wouldn’t in my hands. My point: everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. I may not be able to write about a stormy night in such a way that you can feel the thunderclouds above your head, but I’m told my biggest strength is characterisation, so maybe my readers will be so absorbed in Vicky and Dex’s conversation that they won’t mind not knowing about the colour/length/smell of the grass they’re standing on. Cross fingers!
One area where authors compare themselves with others is sales. But just because your book is only selling half as many as your writer pal’s latest, it doesn’t mean it’s only half as good. She may have a publisher who puts money into promotion, or spend more money on advertising, or do more self-promo, or simply write in a genre that’s currently more popular. For instance, right now, it’s probably easier to sell crime/psychological thrillers than almost any other genre, whereas general contemporary and literary fiction are always a difficult sell. Some markets, such as YA fantasy, are so saturated that it’s hard to make your book stand out.
I believe the best thing you can do when you’re looking at a friend’s enviable Amazon rankings and thinking ‘but I’m sure her book is no better than mine’, is to click off the internet and concentrate on making YOUR book the best you can.
2. Keeping going when things get tough.
I have much to say about this; here’s an article I wrote on my own blog about how to cope with those ‘everything I write is rubbish’ days:
3. Things your first novel taught you.
I first wrote a novel in 1993 and it’s hard to think back 24 years, but I’ve searched through my memory files for the me who sat at a kitchen table with a typewriter, thinking, hmm, how hard can this be? This is what I came up with:
- Writing a novel is hard. You need a lot of material.
- You have to really want to write, not just fancy ‘being a writer’, because it takes a lot of time and dedication. When I wrote Novel #1 (I still have the hard copy in a folder, somewhere!), I sat down most afternoons and applied fingers to keys. For months. That’s after having written the whole thing in longhand first. Then I went through and did a second edit, and typed the whole thing out again, because I didn’t have a word processor. Now, I do around 6 drafts; the re-drafting/editing takes as long as the first draft.
- Making all your characters perfectly reasonable human beings is boring. Novel #1 was from the alternating POVs of three characters. About ten people read it. The character they all said they enjoyed reading most was the most self-interested and bitchy. Which leads me to……. the reason only ten people read it. I didn’t consider it good enough to send to a literary agent, or, later, format for Kindle. If you’re realistic, and unless you’re exceptionally talented, writing your first novel can show you that the desire to write isn’t necessarily accompanied by the ability to produce a potential best seller!
- You need a good ending, especially if you’re hoping for reviews, because that part will stay in the reader’s head after they’ve closed the book, much more than the beginning. And it’s a good plan to decide on that ending before you start, so that all the threads lead to it. Which leads me onto Lucy’s last subject:
4. How to decide when it’s time to walk away from a story?
All writers have novels, novellas and short stories that they’ve started and abandoned. I always decide on the basis of my plot first, and know how it’s going to end (see above!); the abandoned ideas have usually not made it to paper because I can’t think of an end that isn’t an anti-climax. I had (what I thought was) a great idea for a novella a while back, but when I ran it past my sister, she just said, “Yeah. And?”. It didn’t have enough story.
Now and again, I’ve started to write a novel or a novella when my heart is not in it; these get abandoned early. The worst time was when I’d written 30K words of The House of York, and realised that I had too many plot threads; to make them all come together would mean I would either not do justice to any of them, or that the book would be 200K words long. It was tempting to scrap the whole thing, but instead I went back to the beginning and started again, because I was sure the idea had legs. But as for when it’s time let something go, I think it’s a bit like editing. You have to be strict with yourself, and write off that month you’ve just spent on it. It won’t all be wasted, anyway, because you’ll have learned from it.
I hope other writers can relate to these experiences, and thanks again to Lucy for inviting me onto her fab blog!
That was fab – thanks Terry!
Loved the journey you went on with #Novel1. Did it ever reach publication?
Terry’s next book, Tipping Point, is expected to be published in August 2017. It’s the first part of a trilogy, about a how one family and group of friends survive a global pandemic. The second book, Lindisfarne, should be out in September. Click here for more details on Terry’s books.