Top 10 Tips for Writing a Book by Yvonne Woon

We shared with you our review of Dead Beautiful on Sunday. Today the author, Yvonne Woon, shares with us her top 10 tips for writing a book, and we have 3 copies of Dead Beautiful  to giveaway, as part of her blog tour….

Ten Tips for Writing a Book:

1. Finish your book. Of course, this is the hardest part, but there’s a world of writers out there who talk about writing a book, but never actually sit down at a desk and put the time in. No one is going to write it for you, and no one is waiting for it (unless you’re very lucky). You have to find a way to write on a constant basis. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike you on head, as you could be waiting for a very long time. Writing a novel is a long and arduous process, and I writing a good one has just as much to do with perseverance as it does talent.

2. Make a schedule. I sit down at my desk every day from 10am-3pm, with an hour break for lunch. I turn off my internet and my phone, and force myself to write or at least just think about the project I’m working on. Some days, I just brood for four hours, but it helps, because otherwise, I wouldn’t be thinking about the project at all. Obviously, some days, I can’t write for those hours because I have a visitor or some sort of engagement, but on those days, I still make sure I write at least 3 hours a day. Other writers I know have a word count schedule, where they write 500 or 1000 words a day. I only do that when I’m on a deadline. It really depends on what works for you.

3. Plot beforehand. If you write mysteries, or books that have a plot that is more complicated than: girl meets boy and falls in love, I think you should sketch the plot out before you start to undertake most of the writing. From personal experience, writing a mystery without knowing the end almost always ends in disaster. I plot by writing major scenes on flashcards, and hanging them on my walls. That way, I can move events around and see how the story changes when events are relocated.

4. Keep secrets. Even if you’re not writing a mystery, it’s good to keep secrets from the reader. Don’t reveal each character’s entire back story when that character is first introduced. That’s not how it happens in life, and it takes away from their natural mystique. If you show glimmers of a character’s past through his/her current actions, that’s the best writing you can do. Reveal your character’s secrets only when it’s truly necessary, and trust that your reader will be interested enough to wait.

5. Put it away and look at it later. Once you finish writing a chapter, a section, the entire book—take a break from it. At least a week, in my case. I’ve found that after months of living in a story, I can no longer accurately judge whether or not it’s working. Taking some time away gives me fresh eyes. And when I do re-read my work, I usually read it out loud. That way I can hear the rhythm of the sentences. It also forces me to slow down.

6. Revise at least three times. And when I say revise, I mean rewriting huge sections—not just checking for grammar mistakes and spelling. I actually revise more than three times, though I think three times is a good minimum. Every writer I know does this. One of my old professors revises seven times. Without revision, my writing would be much simpler and less nuanced. The characters would be sketched with a blunter stroke, the plot wouldn’t be folded in as neatly, and the writing would be awkward and repetitive.

7. Don’t be afraid to erase. It’s hard, erasing more than a page. In the past, when re-reading my work, I realized that I had to erase the first fifty pages of novel I was working on. They just weren’t working, and they brought the entire story to standstill. It took me two weeks to muster up the resolve to delete that much work. After I did it, I cried for hours. But when I woke up the next morning, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. The problems with the novel no longer existed, and I could start fresh again. That’s an important thing to remember: don’t keep something just because you spent time on it, or because you think it sounds pretty. You can always writer a better sentence, so don’t keep one that isn’t working just because you don’t think you can do better.

8. Don’t get lazy with your writing. It’s easy to do this, especially with descriptions (for example, describing every marginal character by the colour of his/her hair or eyes). Instead, give yourself challenges. Describe a character’s expression without mentioning anything about his/her face. Describe a setting by only talking about the weather. Etcetera. And with dialogue, only make someone speak if they’re saying something that cannot be paraphrased.

9. Writer’s block is solvable. If you reach a dead end, it’s probably because of one of the following problems: a) the scope of your story is too small, or b) you don’t have enough characters to populate your story. Diagnose and fix accordingly.

10. Don’t show your work to anyone until you believe in it. Don’t send your friends the rough draft of your first chapter, because if they hate it (and they might, because it’s a first draft), you might be inclined to drop the project entirely and never pick it up again. It’s your vision, and you’re the only one who can communicate that vision to the world. So it’s a good sign if your friends or family don’t understand what you’re trying to do in your early drafts, because if they could, they would write the book. And as a rule, never show your work to your parents and expect helpful feedback. The same goes for your best friends, unless they are also writers or some form of professional reader/editor.

Brilliant, thanks, Yvonne! Before you all scurry off to start writing, we do have a giveaway! We have 3 copies of Dead Beautiful to giveaway, thanks to Usborne Children’s Books. To be entered into the draw, comment on this post, ‘like’ it on Facebook or retweet it (UK only), and we’ll be picking a winner at 7pm tomorrow evening – good luck! Dead Beautiful’s in our shop now, and you can catch the next stop on the blog tour tomorrow at Once Upon a Bookcase.