Today, it is my pleasure to welcome to my blog T. M Logan giving his top five writing tips.His novel Lies was recently published by Bonnier Zaffre. You can read about the book at the end of the post.
My top five writing tips for aspiring writers
When I was eight years old, my older brothers dug a hole at the end of our garden. It was about three feet deep and two feet wide, behind a hedge where our parents couldn’t see.
When they were finished digging, they told me to get in it.
Why? Because it was a condition of me joining their gang. The Secret Association Society (none of us realised at the time that the acronym was already taken) was all about traps, and poison-making, and setting stuff on fire, and trying to smoke rhododendron leaves. I wasn’t keen on getting in the hole. But I was desperate to be in their gang – so I climbed in, whereupon my brothers covered the hole up with a board and threw some dirt on top. I crouched there in the pitch darkness, gripping my knees, smelling the dark earth and feeling the trickle of soil down the back of my neck. Eventually, they let me out again and I was duly made a member of the SAS. Anyway, the point of the story is this:
1. At some point as a writer, you’re going to have to do things you don’t immediately want to do.
Agents, editors, publishers, copy editors, trusted friends – they may all suggest changes to your manuscript that you don’t necessarily want to make. Try your hardest to listen to them – most of the time they will be right (as I found with LIES). You may have already been through several drafts yourself, and feel you don’t want to make any more changes. You don’t want to get in the hole. But almost everyone’s work can be improved somehow, in some way, through constructive feedback. Which leads me neatly into:
2. Try to get feedback from people you trust.
Getting feedback is tough. Asking someone to critique your work is a bit like walking stark naked into a room full of strangers and asking them to give you marks out of ten. It’s difficult. I’d be the first to admit that I was not very good at it to start with (for a long time I didn’t even share my writing with my wife). The problem is, finding people who want the best for you but won’t just tell you what you want to hear. It’s a judgement call that you have to make. But it’s absolutely worth doing.
3. Write every day.
If you’re serious about writing, you should do it every day. Particularly if you’re trying to get the first draft of a story down. When I start a new story I get a diary, photocopy the ‘Year at a glance’ page at the back, and stick it on the wall next to my desk. Each day I make a note of my wordcount – the aim is 500 on a weekday, 1500 on a weekend day – but it’s less about the number and more about making links in the chain and keeping that promise to myself. If I’ve written for 30, or 50, or 100 days straight, am I going to take a day off and break the chain? Probably not.
4. Every character is the protagonist of his or her own story.
Imagine a clock with no numbers on it. Turn it in your hands. The time it gives will depend on the way you rotate it – one way up will show you 11.15, but flip it over and the time becomes 4.45. The point is: all of your characters should behave as if they are the protagonist. None of them should act as if they are just in a supporting role – they all have their own point of view and are all the central character in their own story. If you can do this effectively, it will help to bring all of your characters to life. Even those who only have a small part to play in your narrative.
5. Let yourself fall into the page.
I love social media. But if you want to be fully absorbed by what you’re doing, put your mobile in a different room. You can’t be listening to your characters, and seeing them in front of you, if you’re constantly being pulled back to reality by your phone pinging with notifications every five minutes. Stephen King calls the process of becoming absorbed in your fictional world ‘falling into the page’. He wrote a brilliant book called On Writing – read it if you can.
About the Book
WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES? A gripping new psychological thriller of secrets and revenge, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Tom Bale
When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.
And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.
But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.
When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.
And that’s when Joe receives the first message