This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
1. Watch, and listen – to anybody and everybody. Each of the characters in your book should be as distinctive as people are in real life, so when you meet somebody (without being at all spooky about this!) notice little things about them that make them unique. As a writer of thrillers, I’m always interested in foibles that I can exaggerate into something much more serious. But whatever you write, each of your characters has to stand out as a personality.
2. Use all your senses. Maybe not in the first draft (which I’ll come to in a minute), but when you are refining your story, you need to be in the place you are writing about. I recently had to write about a vault, deep under the streets of Manchester. So I found a vault and went to visit it! If you’re a writer, business owners will normally be very accommodating (especially in return for an acknowledgement). When I was there I mentally recorded not just what it looked like, but how it felt – the sounds, the smells – and how it might feel to be down there on your own at night with nothing more than a head torch.
3. Write your first draft without agonising over each sentence or word. You could even turn your spell check off – and definitely the grammar checker. Turn off anything that will distract you – like Twitter or Facebook. Even email can go. There’s a great piece of software called Freedom. You tell it you want to be undisturbed for an hour, two hours, five minutes – whatever you want – and it blocks access to the internet and email so you can’t be distracted. You can then write without interruptions, because your first job is to get the story told. Refinements can come later.
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4. Create a timeline – not just for the story, but also for your main characters. When were they born? When did they get married? This might be outside the scope of the story, but it could very well be relevant. It is particularly important if your characters go from book to book. Within the story timeline, think about the time of year – when does it get light or go dark? What day of the week is this happening on? If you don’t know, you could very easily trip yourself up.
5. Consider using a mind-mapping tool to organise your thoughts. I use a very simple one called Scapple (from the people who make Scrivener – another excellent tool for writers) and it’s under $15. I put each thought into a separate box and then I drag the boxes of ideas round until there is a coherent storyline. When I’m dealing with several subplots, I can see how these fit too. It’s easier to use this piece of software than have piles of post-its!
Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott is out now.