Resources for Writers
Getting Started on your Novel by Faith Hogan
Well done – lots of people want to write a book and there are just as many who think they have a book in them that we are all just gagging to read. As a published author, I’ve met more people than I could have ever imagined who are burning to bring their story to life. It’s amazing, the number of people who’ve sat down, at some point and decided to write a book.
The thing is, for anyone who’s ever gotten so far as actually setting out paper and pencils to begin, it’s only a small portion that actually get to those magic words – THE END. Fewer still, have that blessed trinity after painstakingly setting down a hundred thousand words, characters, plot and style. The real Holy Grail is having all of these combined into a package that someone – anyone – apart from your mother, actually wants to read.
So what makes a manuscript stand out from all the others? What differentiates the good from the bad, the brilliant from the mediocre and the successful from the slush pile? I think there are a number of things that mark out any draft from what’s finished and what has yet to be polished further and there are some things that are common to all good books.
First, if you’re writing fiction, you must finish! That’s right, while agents and publishers may be happy to look at the first ten thousand words, they will only seriously consider you when you have the book written – unless you’re an ex president or a Karadashian! Finishing that first draft can be ten mixtures of hell. We’ve all been there, you get off to a flying start, it’s a wonderful idea and then suddenly, you’re at a crossroads, you take a left turn and five thousand words later you’ve reached oblivion and there is no way back! As I’ve said, it’s happened to all of us at some point, the thing is, you have to keep going. By all means, cut that last five or fifty five thousand words (painful and all as it is!) but if you want to finish it sometimes, you just have to kill those babies.
Second, while you want to write what’s going to set your own heart racing, you do need to remember that if you want other people to read it, the book must appeal to them too. Agents, publishers and ultimately, book sellers will need to be able to put this idea on a shelf. That means it has to fit into a genre. Decide what it is you want to write. While rules are made to be broken, it is the case that very few debut novelists emerge without being categorised. So whether you’re writing crime or women’s fiction, historical fiction or memoir, make sure that you can pitch your story in a few lines and the opening line places it firmly in a landscape that the reader can peg easily.
Third, it is true that books tend to divide into character driven narratives or pacy plot reads. You’ll already know what you’re writing probably before you start. Most people who sit down to write either have a big idea and these tend to be concept books, plot boilers, keeping you on the edge of your seat to the very last page. Others will begin with a character. These books tend to lead you along gently, so you become invested in seeing things work out for the best for the story’s main players. Regardless of which route you end up taking, and often you will only be following a path that’s being forged by the pen, it’s no less important that plots have a beginning, middle and end and characters are full rounded. In other words, while you may write a certain kind of book, it’s still important that you don’t skip on the other side of the coin.
Finally, when it comes to finding out if your book has that extra magic ingredient – that elixir that lifts it from the others in the pile, there’s no easy way round it. You have to let other people read it and not just people who will be afraid to crush your budding creative spirit. Husbands, wives, mothers and best friends are all wonderful for building up your ego, but writing groups, professional structural edits and on-line critique clubs are your best bet. There are as many ways to connect with people who hang about the periphery of the publishing business as there are blends of tea. The one thing most of these people have in common is a love of reading. They generally have a devotion to books and even better an unstoppable urge to share their opinions about what they’ve read. If you’re serious about moving your writing forward, invest some time or money in having your work critiqued. The feedback may not be all gushing, but if you take it on the chin, have a little think about it and then move on to actually improving it, well, who knows? It could be you!
And of course, before you go sending out that precious into the big bad world – do get yourself a copy of the The Writers and Artist’s Yearbook – it weighs a tonne and you’ll probably end up getting lost in it for weeks, but at least it directs you succinctly to those people who might, just might be waiting for an MS just like yours!
(c) Faith Hogan
About My Husband’s Wives:
Is it better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved?
Paul Starr, Ireland’s leading cardiologist, has died in a car crash with a pregnant young woman by his side. A woman who is not his wife.
Evie, Grace and Annalise never thought they’d meet, but now they have to uncover the truth of their pasts. And suddenly they find themselves united by a man they never really knew at all.
As these women begin to form unlikely friendships they discover that Paul’s death could prove to be the catalyst they needed to become the people they always wanted to be…
A heart-warming story of love, loss, family and friendship. A compelling debut for fans of Sheila O’Flannigan, Veronica Henry and Jane Fallon.
‘I absolute loved this perfect Autumn-y read – Faith Hogan really is a name to watch out for’ CLAUDIA CARROLL.
‘An intricately woven story of love, jealousy and misunderstanding’ DINEY COSTELOE, author of The Throwaway Children.
Order your copy online here.