The Festival of Writing’s book doctors are the go-to resource for all the advice you need to write, sell and market your book successfully. We’re joined by one of those book doctors today, Allie Spencer, who has ten tips for writers working on their first novel.
1. Before you even think about booting up your word processor, get reading. Then read a bit more. And a bit more after that. In fact, don’t ever stop. Close, active reading gives you instant access to ideas and techniques used by world-famous authors: think of it as your own private ‘how to’ guide!
2. Be kind to yourself. Writing is a craft and absolutely everyone needs time to polish and hone their skills. You mustn’t expect to metamorphose into Kate Atkinson or Hilary Mantel the moment you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). Be proud of the fact that you are writing – it’s not everyone who has the gumption to sit down at a desk and get stuck in.
3. Learn from other writers. Attending workshops, classes and conferences – such as the Festival of Writing in York – are the best possible way to kick-start your writing journey. Download a wealth of writing experience from industry professionals and come away feeling ultra-inspired!
4. Get networked. Writing is a solitary business and it’s all too easy to feel isolated. Give yourself a boost and join a local writers’ group, a national organisation (such as the Romantic Novelists’ Association) or an online community like the fantastic Writers’ Workshop ‘Word Cloud’ where you can celebrate, commiserate, swap feedback and enjoy the companionship of like-minded souls.
5. Remember: there is no right way to write a book. Some of us plot and plan for months, some of us write by the seat of our pants. There are as many ways of working as there are brilliant one-liners in a Marian Keyes novel. Feel free to try them all.
6. Write what you love and love what you write. If you don’t yet know what you love, come along to the Festival of Writing and try out a few genre-based workshops – you might surprise yourself!
7. Don’t feel you have to go along with the latest trend or, worse, gaze into your crystal ball and try and predict the Next Big Thing. You never know – your quirky, original idea could be just what the world is waiting for!
8. Learn to re-read your work not as an author but as a reader. As the author you already know your characters’ deepest, darkest secrets but these might not be so obvious to your readers. Always try and see your work through the eyes of someone coming to it afresh.
9. Meet some agents. One-to-one sessions, such as those at the Festival of Writing, are a golden opportunity to find the perfect representation for you and your book – and receive valuable feedback to boot.
10. Never give up. Keep writing, keep polishing and – most of all – have fun. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.
Allie Spencer is the author of five highly-acclaimed romantic comedy novels. Her debut, Tug of Love won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award and two of her books have been short-listed for the prestigious Melissa Nathan Award. An experienced lecturer and creative writing tutor, she will be teaching and providing one-to-one feedback sessions at this year’s Writers’ Workshop Festival of Writing in York, including an exciting ‘live’ version of her online course ‘Reading4Writers’.
W: alliespencer.com / writersworkshop.co.uk