So, let’s pick up where we left off last week on learning how to write with advice from Stephen King — if you missed the first part, you can read it here. I’ve included the infographic that goes with this post at the end of the post.
Engage your readers
For me, the biggest thing that engages me in reading a book is creating believable characters and scenes. I love characters that just jump off the pages, but not everyone agrees with me. My writing group thinks I focus too much on giving characters a backstory that makes them real, but I find characters fall flat without this. You’re welcome to read a review copy of “Buried Ladies” and give me your opinion about whether I’ve gone too far, like my writing group thinks.
Following King’s advice, you should write something you’d enjoy reading, so my characterizations fit that bill. That also means you don’t have to slavishly write in a single genre any more than you only read a single type of book. I do like series books, so that’s what I’m writing.
King also recommends reading every day. I agree. You can’t be a really good writer unless you also read a lot. King recommends you read good writing, but I find I learn a lot by reading stuff that I think isn’t so good. I spend time analyzing what I think made it a poor novel and then avoid making those mistakes myself.
How to write: the process
Write every day
I try to write every day — not just write, but work on my novel every day. Sometimes that doesn’t happen because I’m editing the last book or outlining the next one, but I write most days.
Writing is like exercise to an athlete. You won’t get any better if you don’t do it regularly. Unlike exercise, I don’t think it works to do it 10 minutes at a time. I think you need to give yourself at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour or more, to give yourself time to get into the scene and characters. King sets a word count goal, while others set aside a specific amount of time. I do a mixture.
Some writers swear by writing first thing in the morning while they’re fresh. I rather spend time on mundane activities in the morning, checking my analytics, setting up my social media shares, etc to give my mind time to wake up. I tend to write in the afternoon.
Set up a writing place
Some folks like to write with music in the background, but there certainly shouldn’t be other distractions. Find a place that’s your writing place. Maybe you use a desk that gets used for paying bills and surfing the internet, but you don’t want a room where you’re constantly setting up and tearing down your writing. Stephen King wrote “Carrie” at a little student desk in the laundry room of his trailer. So, it doesn’t have to be much, it just has to be a separate place that’s set up for writing.
King writes long hand, while I type into a word processor. I think both work well.
A poorly researched novel won’t work well with readers, but don’t obsess about it. Spending years on research instead of working to hone your writing doesn’t pay off well. You’re bound to get some things wrong and readers will be quick to tell you. Do the best you can.
Don’t be afraid
Fear is probably the #1 reason why so many writers never publish. The book is never QUITE ready.
Don’t censor yourself. Be brave. Chart new paths.
You are likely your own worst critic, so make sure your novel is something you’d enjoy reading.
Not everyone is going to like everything you write, but you have to be true to yourself and do the best job you can. Then hit the submit button.
Learn more about my writing
Some folks seek out readers with specific characteristics, some pay for expert readers, some join writing groups where they exchange reading for getting critiques. I use Beta readers who get a free review copy.