Kelly Lawrence, author of Wicked Games, and literary teacher for seven years gives us tips and advice on writing….
What’s the best way for a writer juggle their personal and writing life? Ordinary life often gets in the way of a planned structured day. Any tips? Try and set a timetable for yourself. Actually pencil in the time you can allocate to writing and stick to it. You need to plan ahead to work around issues such as kids and planned events. And make sure your friends know that when you’re writing, you’re not to be disturbed!
What can a writer do to overcome ‘writer’s block? Write. You really do just have to write through it. Even if you write complete garbage you can edit it afterwards. If you’re really stuck do ten minutes free writing – take a word or image and just write whatever comes to mind. Then get stuck in to your current task. Take regular breaks too – preferably every hour. Go for a walk, do some yoga, play with the dog, whatever. It prevents burnout.
What should a writer look out for when deciding if their manuscript is the best it can possibly be before releasing it to an agent/publisher/the public? Edit, edit and edit again. And take a good look at the structure of your work – does the pace sag in the middle, is the viewpoint the best one to tell the story? Structural issues can feel like a minefield but when you know what to look for, it’s easy. I have a writing guide, ‘Building your Story’ coming out in August with Compass Books looking at these issues in detail.
Also it’s not enough to send a great ms any more. Make sure you know where it fits in the market and who is likely to buy it. The first thing a publisher wants to know is ‘Is it good?’ the next is ‘Can I sell it?’
How can a writer be prepared for, and deal with rejection? It sucks. You just have to pick yourself up and keep going. ‘Harry Potter’ was rejected dozens of times before it was picked up, as were many bestsellers. It happens to us all. If you get feedback be grateful for it, even if it seems overly harsh. There may be something in the criticism that you can take on board and work on to make your manuscript better. Remember a rejection rarely means ‘it was crap’ it just wasn’t right for that person at that time.
How should a writer deal with negative reviews about their book? I do find this hard. Reviews are crucial. However remember a bad review is better than no review. As with rejection, see if you can take something constructive from the criticism. And remember that people can sometimes be downright nasty for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with you. Brush it off.
What’s the best piece of advice you have heard in respect of writing/being an author? I heard this line in Sister Act 2 twenty years ago and it’s stayed with me ever since; ‘Don’t ask anyone else if you are a writer. If you wake up in the morning thinking about writing, then you are a writer.’
Can you share any valuable websites/magazines/blogs for authors in respect of tips, help and advice? Try Write to Done at http://writetodone.com and in the UK, read Writing magazine and Writer’s Forum.
Any tips in respect of getting the synopsis right? Don’t over-write. More than 5 pages is too much. They can be hard to do but are crucial to your chances of publication. Try pretending you are a book publisher and ask yourself – what do I need to know about this book? Take each chapter and sum it up in five short bullet points, then craft your synopsis around that.
Any tips on marketing and creating a fan base? It’s crucial, these days, but you can end up spending more time doing this than anything else. Create a blog and post at least once a week, and have a Twitter feed and Facebook page devoted to your writing. You can then link them all so you only need to post once for it to appear on all three platforms. Do some marketing on a local level too – go to literary events, join writers groups, get your local media on side. It builds from there. In a year I’ve gone from getting coverage in a tiny village newsletter to a national tabloid – it’s the domino effect.
Lastly, can you share with us about what your usual writing day is like? Chaos, usually. I’m awful at following my own advice! But I do try….