This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
1. Be true to yourself. What most excites me about reading a novel is an individual vision. If I am to expend the time (and money) on your novel, then I want something that only you can give me. Nothing has depressed me more on reviewing books than to receive press releases stating ‘in the vein of Margaret Atwood’ or ‘just like Ian McEwan’. If I want Margaret Atwood or Ian McEwan, then I’ll read them. If I’m reading you, I want you.
2. Do not write for the market; it never works. Except for genre novels, bestsellers are almost always unexpected. Write what with your heart and soul. It may or may not be commercial, but you won’t have compromised.
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3. Take your time. Go to any big bookshop and you will see the huge number of fiction titles on the shelves and that is just a fraction of the ones currently in print. If you are going to add to them, then make sure it is the best it can possibly be. A good book is better than a quick one. It sounds self-evident but it is a truth that many people forget, especially when both they themselves and their friends/loved ones are losing faith in that first novel that may be taking years to write.4. Accept criticism. You may have written a masterpiece and I hope that you have, but the rest of us know that our work can always be improved after our friends and peers have cast an appraising eye on it. That said, choose readers you respect and whose prejudices you know. If you show the typescript to ten friends, you will probably have ten very different (and sometimes contradictory) responses. So don’t feel obliged to take every piece of advice, although if there is a consensus, it needs to be taken seriously. But use other peoples’ perspectives to gain a fresh perspective yourself.
5. Don’t give up the day job! I’m not a great believer in creative writing courses. They are much more popular now than when I was starting out and seem to me to be a largely cynical ploy on the part of universities to boost student numbers on courses that are very cheap to one. The best way to learn how to write well is to read. Otherwise, there are plenty of self-help manuals on the market. All you gain on a creative writing course is the fellowship of other aspiring writers. That may well be a benefit both emotionally and intellectually, but it can just as easily be found in one of the many writers’ groups that meet either formally or informally in the evenings and at weekends.
Widows and Orphans by Michael Arditti is out now.