Monday, November 14, 2011

Cally Taylor Shares her Top 15 Writing Tips

Cally won the Elizabeth Gouge Trophy at the RNA Conference in Wales this year and here she shares her writing tips.....

Cally’s Top Fifteen Writing Tips
   1. Decide what your main character’s goal is and then throw as many obstacles at her as you can to stop her reaching her goal. If you want your book to have a happy ending she should overcome each of the obstacles and achieve her goal by the end of the book.
   2. If you have difficulty visualising your characters or bringing them to life cut out pictures of people who look like your characters from magazines, or use a web site like to create them, and pin them above your desk so you can look at them while you’re writing.
   3. Set yourself little targets to motivate yourself – 2,000 words by the end of the week or 10,000 words in a month – and give yourself a little treat when you hit your target. When I was writing “Heaven Can Wait” I bought myself a paperweight for every 25,000 words I wrote. By the end of the first draft I had four very pretty paperweights on the window sill in front of my desk, reminding me of what I’d achieved.
   4. Don’t keep going back to edit what you’ve  just written. You’ll get too bogged down trying to make it perfect and you’ll never reach the end of your novel! The most important thing is to get the whole novel written. Most first drafts are rubbish. It’s the editing afterwards that turns a draft into a complete, polished book.
   5. Join a creative writing evening class. A good one will inspire you and motivate you to write.
   6. Join a writing group where reading and critiquing each other’s work is encouraged. Your friends and family might tell you wonderful things about your book but a stranger is more likely to be honest!
   7. Write what you love, not what you think will sell. When I wrote “Heaven Can Wait” there weren’t any  supernatural romantic-comedies for sale in bookshops but I didn’t let that deter me. I had to write the novel that was bubbling inside of me.
   8. If you can’t attend a writing class or a course there are lots of fantastic ‘how to write a novel’ books on the market. I own lots of them and find them tremendously helpful. I’ve included links to my favourites on my website
   9. You can also learn a lot about writing a novel by studying books by your favourite authors and asking yourself, “How did they make that chapter so gripping?” or “Why did that scene make me cry?”
  10. When you’re editing your novel one of the best things you can do is to read it out loud. Reading aloud mimics how your novel will sound in a reader’s head and you’ll be surprised how many sentences suddenly sound clunky or awkward.
  11. Don’t be surprised if you get part way through your novel and suddenly all your enthusiasm drains away and you think your novel is awful. This is perfectly natural and happens to all authors. Give yourself a little bit of a break then continue writing, you will start to believe in your novel again.
  12. You can generate ideas for novels by asking yourself ‘What if?’ I came up with the idea for “Heaven Can Wait” by wondering “What if a woman died the night before her wedding and refused to go to heaven?” With ‘Home for Christmas’ I thought, “What if two people had very different ideas about what would make them happy?”
  13. When you’ve finished the first draft of your novel set it aside for at least a month before you start editing it. You’ll be more removed from it and will spot problems or mistakes that you wouldn’t have notice if you’d started editing immediately after finishing it.
  14. When your novel is as good as you can get it buy a copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook or a similar publication that lists all the literary agents in the UK. Carefully look through the agents, identifying the ones that represent authors who write similar fiction to you and send them a covering letter, synopsis and the first three chapters of your novel (or whatever they specifically request). Very few publishers look at unsolicited manuscripts these days so getting an agent is your best route to publication.
  15. Getting short stories published or placing in competitions is not only good practice for writing a novel but, if you include them on your covering letter to an agent, it’ll demonstrate that you’re an accomplished writer with a good track history.

Cally Taylor lives in Bristol with her boyfriend and their ridiculously large DVD/book/music collection. She shares her 'study' with the washing machine and ironing board and writes her novels in any spare moments she can squeeze in between the day job and her social network addiction . She started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and been published by a variety of women's magazines. Her debut novel Heaven Can Wait has been translated in 13 languages and was voted 'Debut Novel of the Year' by and Home for Christmas is her second novel.
You can find out more about Cally on any of the following:

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she's finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox - a charming but rundown independent cinema - and has a boyfriend who's so debonair and charming she can't believe her luck! There's just one problem - none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn't look like Aiden's going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear 'I love you' for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands - and instantly wishes she hadn't. Just when it seems like her luck can't get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he's determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

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