For me being an author is a continuing learning process. Although I’m about to publish my seventh novel there’s always something new to discover or surprise me, either from something I read or from my writing colleagues. I was once asked what I thought were the five most important things I had learned which could be passed on to would-be writers and here they are –
1. I guess the most important thing of all is self-belief. As a fledgling writer embarking on my first novel I was very aware I was entering unchartered territory. I knew what I had begun was going to be a huge and probably at times, a difficult task. I had the plot sorted but exactly how many thousand words would that translate into? Would it be enough for a whole book? And would anyone want to read it? This was the point where I told myself no matter what it took I was going to write this book; that yes I could do it. It wasn’t an easy journey and there were difficult moments but I kept going, holding on to my belief that I could achieve my dream of being an author. My first book, When Tomorrow Comes was published in 2009 and five others have followed, which I guess is proof that if you believe you can do it, you will.
2. Reading. A writer needs to read…and not only their own genre. Reading enables you to keep up with what is currently on the market and gives you an insight into other writers’ techniques. How they structure their work, create characters and develop storylines. It’s also helped me when I’ve hit a flat spot in my manuscript. Sometimes quite unexpectedly a scene in the book I’m reading will provide me the answers I need to kick start my writing again.
3. Social Media. This is so important. When my first book was published I knew very little about social media. The first thing I set up was a website and hot on its heels, Facebook and Twitter accounts so I could link it. I now have a blog and regularly invite other writers to come and virtually chat. This gives them exposure for their own work and in turn, I get invited back to promote my work. I also review for Brook Cottage Books and have set up a dedicated website for this. Facebook in particular, is very useful, enablling me to link with other writers, join groups and forums and spread the word.
4. Patience. Novel writing doesn’t always go to plan. You begin a story but it’s not always a smooth ride. When things go wrong, as they often do, you need to approach your problem in a calm way. To get your writing back on track, patience and determination should be your main focus. You will do it. It will happen. Yes, I know it’s frustrating but over the years I’ve learned to become very philosophical seeing these unforeseen obstacles as a ‘meant to be’ moment. It goes with the territory and needs to be treated as a challenge not a disaster.
5. When the going gets tough… Yes, there will be moments of frustration when things don’t go to plan. You can also guarantee you’ll suffer from writer’s block – when you have a scene to write but no matter how many attempts you make, it simply won’t come right. Or your writing dries up completely. I guess this situation connects with No 4 above. It’s part and parcel of the pathway. It’s annoying but it happens. When I find myself in this situation I simply take a step away from my work for a while and do something completely different. Because I know in doing this when I return I’ll be much fresher, see things in a completely different way and can guarantee I’ll resolve the problem.
So to summarise, the five things I’ve learned from being an author are:
• Believing in myself
• Being a reader as well as a writer
• Developing a good social media presence
• Having patience when you hit a problem
• Knowing when to step away from your work
This post is brought to you by Jo Lambert.