Today’s guest post is by copywriter, editor, and educator Jessica Millis:
Anyone who has ever read (or written) a book knows about the old saying that everyone has a book in them. I can’t deny this. Everyone does have a book in them. Unfortunately, people often leave out the asterisk. Just because you have a book in you doesn’t mean it’s going to be good.
Most novels in the online and offline market today are garbage. They’re pumped full of high-powered marketing and geared towards people who will likely read them once on a long flight.
I’ve read so many garbage novels that I believe it’s time to start chopping off some hands. I’m also a firm believer in improvement, though. Anyone can be a writer, but not everyone has the ability to improve their skills and take it to the next level.
Here are my top tips for becoming a best seller over the bargain-basement railway to the land of fail.
1. Don’t Spend Forever Gathering Material
My favorite procrastination excuse is, “I’m just gathering material for my next book.”
No, you’re not. You’ll gather material for the rest of your life. It’s called being a living, breathing human being. The fact is you get better at writing by writing. You’re not writing when you’re researching, picking your nose, or banging your pencil off your two front teeth.
Burn those notebooks and just get started. You can fix any bad plotlines later. Furthermore, what’s stopping you from adding in new material as you go along?
2. Don’t Waste Time Testing Forms
Writing comes in a great deal of forms. I’ve seen poems that take the form of prose and multi-person narratives that make a story a whole lot more interesting. There’s also essay writing, complex plots revealed exclusively in letters, and written transcripts.
These are the enigmas of the writing trade. They do tend to leave their marks, but most people can’t handle them. They require a very specific type of writer to manage them. The novice will only tie himself in knots and come up with the writing equivalent of Alphabetti Spaghetti.
You can experiment in your own time when you’re not working on your novel.
3. Don’t Be about Breaking the Writing World
There are some people who will revolutionize writing. They’ll come up with an entirely new genre or form. New writers often fall victim to this. Before they’ve been hit with a rejection later, they’ll believe they’re the greatest thing to happen to writing since forever.
The problem is, these godly writers have yet to actually write and publish anything.
Most of the new genres that have appeared throughout history happened by accident. The authors didn’t create them. They were forced upon them by observers and critics. Writers simply write about what they know and love.
You’re writing for yourself, not to impress others. Once you start to travel down this road, the emphasis leaves writing quality and it becomes nothing more than a giant ego trip.
The next time you come up with something you believe will conquer and change the writing world, ask yourself this question: “Is there a reason nobody has ever done this before?”
4. Read it Aloud
Storytelling started as an oral profession. People would sit around a fire and they would tell people stories. They would engage their brains to come up with distinctive characters all with different voices.
Writing today is a fast process. There’s no delay in the words and no real thinking involved. You can pump out the equivalent of a full-length novel in a week, if you truly wanted to.
During this time you’ll leave words out, and your sentences will sound as if they come from someone who simply used Google Translate over and over again.
Find people who will be willing to listen to your story. Read it to them and you’ll be forced to listen to the words. You might uncover errors you never spotted by sight. What you’ll also see is whether your writing really works.
Have you missed important points? Are the characters consistent with the manners and behaviors you created for them? Have you really done the best you can?
These are all questions you will answer by reading your work aloud.
On a side note, you might even want to consider downloading a voice-recognition program. All you have to do is speak into a microphone and the words appear on the screen. It’s an increasingly popular method of writing.
5. Ignore Convention
Yes, I know, this is sort of contradictory to those points about trying hard to be different. There’s a difference, though.
On one hand, you are not trying to be different for the sake of being different. On the other hand, you are simply refusing to be restricted by conventions.
Stay away from phrases like “Just write about what you know,” because you’ll never grow. Experiment with new things and incorporate them into what you know. Writing is about exploring, and only through looking at something new will you get better.
Jessica Millis, experienced writer, editor and copywriter. She works as an educator in James Madison University (writing classes) and at EssayMama.com as an essay writing specialist. Featured Photo Credit: Lori Joan via Compfight cc