Fionnuala Kearney offers a few tips to those thinking of writing a novel:
W = Write. It may seem a bit obvious but to write a novel, you really have to commit to writing, ideally every day – even if it’s only a few words every day. Small amounts of words build up to lots of words, which builds to that first draft. Oh, and ‘W’ is also for wine. It helps occasionally.
R = Revisions and more revisions. I was once at a lyric writing course run by a famous lyricist who said “Songs are never written, they’re re-written, usually about seven times.” In my experience, it’s about the same for novels. Your first draft will not be your last, nor should it ever be.
I = Internet. At all costs the internet (unless used for very specific legitimate research purposes) should be avoided. Step away from Facebook and Twitter and all other internet based procrastination tools!
T = Theme. Theme is sort of like the argument you’re posing in the novel you’re writing, so all other stuff – story, scenes, plot, and characters should ideally help prove the argument. For example, if your theme is ‘Love is for losers’ then everything else should follow that lead. If your theme is that ‘Family is everything’ – same goes. Characters, plot etc. are all there to prove your case.
E = Edit. Novels need editing. Small pruning here and there and larger structural edits. That sentence you love, the one you secretly want to tell all your friends about? It should probably go… Sure, it’s a great line but does it belong there? And is the structure of the novel right to deliver the correct pace for your story?
T = Time Management. It’s difficult to make time to write when most of us have got children and other jobs to juggle. Sometimes it can feel almost selfish claiming that time as your own. It is, though, so worth it at the end. The sense of satisfaction you get when you finish and hopefully send that novel on its way is enormous…
H = Hook. Publishers want one. Readers need one. And we writers have to give it to them in the first few pages before they yawn and start running their fingers along the spines of other books or scrolling through their ‘To Be Read’ list on their kindles. Hook them with something interesting, riveting and reel them in slowly.
A = Action. No lights, no cameras, just Action! If this is your first time, be gentle on yourself. Start with a page, or a couple of hundred words. Write about your dog; your next-door neighbour’s irritating cough through the thin walls that divide you; ask yourself if rats are really responsible for the plague and write about that (or not) but Write. Write something. Act on the fact that you want to write.
T = Tea breaks. A must. My favourite is a mug of Green Sencha, at about four in the afternoon.
N = Nonsense. You will write a lot of nonsense. It’s unavoidable. You’ll read back some of your prose and laugh out loud, wondering what you were smoking when you wrote that. Really.
O = Owning it. All of it, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. There’ll be moments of genuine pride when you think, ‘Hey I did that…’ Own it: celebrate it, savour it, wallow in it and buy yourself a small celebratory gift. And when it’s downright bad and ugly, own that too, then put it to one side and move on. We all write ugly sometimes and nothing is ever a waste of time.
V = Va va voom! Inject some into your writing! Every brilliant book has a little something special and unique.
E = Easy-peasy? It’s really not. It is extremely exciting and rewarding to write a novel but never easy. Ernest Hemingway is said to have said: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewrite and open a vein.”
L = Leap of Faith. When you’ve done it, typed THE END and you have a finished, polished manuscript in front of you – take a leap of faith. In yourself. You’ve worked hard and you’re happy with what you’ve produced. SEND IT OUT! Seek that agent and share what you’ve worked hard to produce.
Fionnuala’s second novel, ‘The Day I Lost You’ is now available in digital and e-format with the UK paperback to follow in September this year.