This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
As well as being our Tuesday columnist, Anna Bell is the author of three novels! The latest of these is Don't Tell The Groom.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I often feel like my writing day revolves around my dog rather than writing books, I can’t complain though as most of my plotting and thinking happens on dog walks. I sit down at my desk in the morning after walk number one and I write until my dog paws me to tell me it’s time for the lunchtime walk. I then write all afternoon. More often than not, I’ll be still at my desk in the evenings.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I tend to use people I know for inspiration for my characters, but only in so much as I think about the things that make my friends tick and what little nuances they have that make them “them”. I then try and make my characters have their own quirks to make them seem as real as I can. Despite telling my friends that they aren’t the characters, they still pull my books apart claiming the parts are based on them and usually they aren’t!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I don’t really have a favourite book per se. In fact, I’m one of those weird people that doesn’t keep their books after they’ve read them. But with women’s fiction I’ve got a real soft spot for early Jane Green books as they sucked me into the genre. Jemima J remains one of my all time favourite characters. I also love Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, only because it feels like you’re catching up with an old friend whenever you read about the next adventure of Becky Bloomwood.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I have planned my novels in nearly every way possible. From making Pinterest boards to planning out the story chapter by chapter. I’ve found that it really depends on what I’m writing and the complexity of the plot twists. The more planning you do, the less head scratching you do when you’re writing. But some novels I’ve written only take form when they’re being written.
When I start writing, I write a really awful first draft, and I usually will do three or four further drafts before I send it off for a line edit. The second draft is the most brutal and the fourth is more of a minor tweak before I send it away. How many drafts I do after that depend on what’s thrown up from my editor.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I decided to self-publish my first novel, ‘Millie and the American Wedding’ on a bit of a whim. I put it on iTunes for about a year, and to my amazement it got quite good reviews. Deciding that a traditional publisher wouldn’t want it because it had been in the public domain for free, I put it on Amazon. I didn’t intend to self-publish the rest of my books, but Millie was successful enough that I could give up my day job and write full-time.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That you have an abundance of free time. Now I’m a full-time writer my friends and family will often text me when they’ve got a day off, ‘do you fancy….’ And I scream, in my head, No, I don’t fancy going to lunch/shopping/afternoon tea, I’m at work! My writing day will start around 9am and I’d be lying if most evenings during the week I wasn’t writing/editing/reading my work on my Kindle until 9pm or 10pm at night. It’s not very easy for other people to see how much work goes into a book before it goes on the shelf.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Write, and keep writing. I’ve learnt a lot of lessons over the last year, but what I’ve learnt is that your next book will invariably be better. As with anything in life, the more you practise, the better you get. It doesn’t matter if your first novel never sees the light of day, you’ll learn so much about the process of writing and editing along that it will all come in useful one day.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently writing a sequel to my latest release, Don’t Tell the Groom. I hadn’t planned to write it, but Penny the main character wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s the first sequel I’ve written and I’m really enjoying it as it’s like catching up with an old friend.
What are your top five writing tips?
1. Write your first draft as quick as you can. The first draft is never going to be seen by anyone but you, so who cares if it’s bad? I always think of the first draft as the bones of the novel and then the second draft is when the meat goes on. I’ve also found the longer I’ve taken to write it, the more doubt starts to creep in.
2. Don’t be afraid to abandon a WIP. A few years ago I had a great idea for a novel and I tried to write it four times. Each time I got stuck around the 20,000 word mark; something just wasn’t translating. I know it’s hard when you feel you’ve put your heart and soul into however many words you’ve written, but don’t forget you can always revisit it at a later date. And then you’ll have fresh eyes.
3. Make time for your writing. I know that we don’t always like to turn down offers to see three-dimensional people to stay in and write, but if you don’t make an investment in time to actually write then you won’t get anywhere. Be selfish. If you want to be a writer, put your writing first and plan to see your manuscript as much as you would your best friend.
4. Read widely. I know it’s such a cliché, but it’s so true. If you’re writing women’s fiction, which is such a huge genre, do make sure you read across it. Reading thrillers is also a great way to see pacing of a novel, as well as plot twists, and I find reading autobiographies is a great way to see how different human experiences translate to a reader. Emotions in the autobiographies are real life, and it’s those emotions you want to capture in the women’s fiction.
5. Read writing tips. There are so many gems of information that you can glean from other writers. You’re never going to write a book in exactly the same way as another writer, but who knows the tip about ‘writing your plot on post notes and sticking them to your wall’ might be the tip that helps you write a better novel!