I’m so thrilled to have my very first guest blogger! David McGowan is author of The Hunter Inside, a newly released psychological thriller with a twist. David lives in Liverpool, UK and has a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Liverpool. His blog provides writers with incredible insight into the mind of a writer, bringing us helpful hints and various musings that enrich our own writing experiences.
So, without further ado…
‘I have no writing talent’ – Tips for Despairing Authors
So, you’ve just finished your novel. You’ve smoked a cigar, danced around the room, listened to Paperback Writer by Thefull blast and maybe even shed a tear or two. Now you sit down to edit it and lo and behold, all your confidence goes, evaporates, disintegrates. You think, ‘did I really write this drivel? I thought I wrote a good novel’. Well, I’ve just published my debut novel (The Hunter Inside), so believe me, I know what you’re going through. I could have edited it til the cows came home, went away, and then came home for a second time, and still not have been 100% happy. So, here are my tips for when you despair and think what you’ve done isn’t good enough.
1. Edit by hand – Print out your manuscript and grab a good pen. Maybe even a red pen – let the inner teacher in you break free! Finally having a pen in your hand is good and it’s a lot easier to edit on paper than on a computer/laptop/iPad screen. But if you can get someone else to do it for you as well, at the same time, you’ll be amazed with the results. That’s what I did, and sure, I had a lot of work to do when I got the MS back, but every mark, typo spotted, and plot question was so valuable, as this was my reader – their opinion was more important to me than my own a lot of the time, because they were telling me what they like and dislike. This was invaluable for me in going forward with my novel, and I noticed that a lot of the things my editor spotted were things I spotted too. It was the notes in the margin that said things like ‘I prefer this to this’ or ‘would this word be better than that?’ that really got me thinking and improved my writing. I didn’t realise I used the word ‘that’ so much until I saw Eileen’s edit! I can never thank that second pair of eyes enough. Unfortunately, Eileen passed away before the novel was published, but I appreciated what she did for me so much that I dedicated The Hunter Inside to her.
2. Step away when overwhelmed – We all have days when we lack confidence, or wallow in outright despair that we have no talent and we don’t know why we bother. When you feel like that, step away. Have a break. Come back to it when you’re having an up day and appreciate the good things about what you’ve written. I can beat myself up over one sentence out of a chapter if I can’t get it right, but your reader has the rest of the chapter to enjoy the stuff you did get right, and they may think it’s ALL right. Even the best authors sometimes get things wrong. Don’t blinker yourself to the good stuff by concentrating on the bad stuff all the time. When I hand edit my work I’ll congratulate myself in the margin when I read something and think ‘wow, I wrote that’. It’s not arrogance, it’s morale boosting. You’ve worked hard, you deserve to recognise the good stuff!
3. Give yourself space – Similar to the tip above, but just put the damn thing away – for 5 years if need be. You’ll come back to it fresh, and in the meantime you might have made a fortune from the second novel you wrote where you applied all the knowledge gained from writing the first one! But who cares about money, it’s readers we want!
4. Don’t panic – When you’re struggling to make a dent in the editing process, don’t panic. Take it one page at a time. Really take your time. Drink lots of coffee. Even if you do one page a day the chances are you’ll have it done in a year. That’s a good thing! A year in the life of a writer goes very quickly!
5. The skeleton – Remember, if you have a great story then you can shape around that. Don’t be scared of your weaknesses in your writing. Recognise them and try to improve on them. I think I write great dialogue but struggle with some of the more descriptive aspects, but I can guarantee that my second novel will see an improvement on my first. It’s like golf. If you’re great at driving and rubbish at putting, which do you practice? Gotta be putting, right?
6. Write another – This ties in with the advice above again, but start another novel and get enthusiastic about that, then come back as a reader of your other work rather than as the author of the work.
7. Embrace the learning opportunity – I’m not a great believer of reading millions of books about writing novels, because I think you’re better off writing the darn things, but if you set aside a month where you aren’t writing and are concentrating on editing, re-working etc. then I think that’s the ideal time to get out all those books you bought about language and grammar and structure and schedule an hour into your day to learn from people who are better educated in this side of things than you. Who knows, their advice might one day make you a better and more successful writer than they are.
8. Get drunk – What? You need an excuse?
Thank you so much, David. It was a pleasure to have you here today. Congrats on the book and I wish you luck!
And a very Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and pseudo-moms out there today! ;)