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How NOT to write a book…

Posted on 12 July 2012 by Alice

Everyone’s writing process is different.

Mine, however, has been developing for quite some time. In 1999 (that’s right, the 90s!) I started writing my first novel. It started out as a good idea for a short story, which

became just that bit too long to remain constricted by a short word-count.

I had the plan all mapped out in my head. My lead character was strong and the plot was based on a true criminal case.

Yesterday, I finished writing the book.

Why did it take me so long? I realise I made some fatal mistakes, ones that I hope this blog will help budding authors out there to avoid.

  1. I let my other people read each chapter. Don’t let anyone read your draft until it’s finished and you’re happy with it. Bad and arrogant feedback I received from one particular person made me despondent and I gave up writing this novel for about 4 years…
  2. Don’t rely on your memory for chapter planning and characterisation. One of my minor characters ended up with 3 different names! Ahem… now corrected. If you’ve lost your place/mind and the chapters are swirling before your eyes, take Jeffery Deaver’s advice, as I did. Remember to amend your plan if the chapters you’ve written deviate from it – this is a good way of keeping tabs on what’s been written.
  3. Don’t read the book until you’ve finished getting the first draft down. You might be tempted to start editing, in which case it might take you 12 years to complete. Leave all the typos until the entire first draft has been written. This is difficult, but necessary.
  4. Do your research. When I started reading up about forensic techniques (mine’s a crime novel) in 1999 I was still using a dial-up internet connection (before broadband was available) and had just bought my first computer. Reading those notes now is quite entertaining, but they’re completely inaccurate. Forensics have moved on, internet search engines have evolved and readers demand more.
  5. Don’t be scared of over- or under-writing. Remember to focus on the story
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    and let your chapters come together naturally. If your book is too short or too long, the editor will definitely let you know about it.

  6. Remember to develop your characters. A strong plot is great, but your characters will get
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    left behind if you’re too excited about finishing the first draft.

  7. Lastly, don’t spend 12+ years to finish the first draft… It took me this long to write 48,000 words. In the last two weeks during my dedicated writing retreat (3* hotel in the middle of nowhere. Me, a room, my laptop) I wrote 30,000 words. 11,000 of those were written in the last two days.


One Response to “How NOT to write a book…”

  1. Gwen Potter says:

    Congratulations, Alice, on completing your book! I enjoyed reading your blog on dos and don’ts for writing! I’m so glad your retreat gave you the uninterrupted time to get the novel finished – and I’m very much looking forward to buying and reading the book!