As anyone who has ever attempted it can attest, writing a book is not easy. If the sheer work involved isn’t enough to scare you off, trying to keep you subject matter, characters, form, and other elements can be downright mind-boggling. We’ve covered this topic before in our How to Write a Novel guide, but it never hurts to have more author tips that can help you accomplish your goals.
Author Tips: Read, Read, and Read Some More
One of the dangers that authors run into is myopia. Being so focused on your work and ideas that you lose sight of how other books are written. While it’s hard to find time to read in our busy world, reading can provide you with author tips that can flow into your subconscious. No one works in a vacuum, so don’t be afraid to steal liberally and weave those thoughts into your own voice.
It also helps to read different works that are outside of your target genre. For instance, if you’re writing non-fiction, a science fiction novel can remind you of how to make more engaging prose. Vice versa, non-fiction can bring a dose of realism that can make your ideas more relatable.
Author Tips: Be Aware of Your Style
Of all the author tips presented in this article, style should be a foremost concern when writing a book.
Have you ever read a book that seems like it was written by more than one author? It probably was—or, at the very least, it conveys that an author wasn’t consistent. Authors need to make a cohesive work that retains a definitive style unless they are going for a disjointed, avant-garde style.
Style augments the story and subject matter. Consider two books written about war – Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse 5”. Both stories have a number elements in common—a male narrator trapped in military conflict, describing the horrors around them while trying to maintain their composure under extreme stress.
Hemingway’s laconic style displays his famous “iceberg theory,” where the reader is left to grasp at the narrator’s true, hidden feelings. In “Slaughterhouse 5”, Vonnegut’s tone is similarly stark, but with a hint of disconcerting humor for a person undergoing the effects of PTSD. So it goes…
If you haven’t had an opportunity, read Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. This short book will open your eyes to some of the options authors have when trying to convey their story to readers.
Author Tips: Using a Pseudonym
Consider how your work will be viewed by your professional colleagues and future employers. Should you attach your name to it, or are you willing to forego the recognition and adulation by using a pseudonym?
This is important for those looking to write about controversial topics that may impact their life. It’s one thing to specialize in erotica, but would you want your family, students, and coworkers to know about your hobby? The same goes for political affiliations.
If you want to state your beliefs without regard to the consequences, be aware of how your decision will appear to those who don’t know you personally. And while we’d all like to make writing our main focus, some employers look down on authors that “moonlight” on their passion projects. After all, would your literary commitments impact your job performance and availability? Then again, it may increase your job prospects!
Author Tips: Nose to the Grindstone, Sort of…
Books don’t write themselves. While this may seem like one of the most obvious of author tips, no one else is going to write your book for you—unless you subcontract it.
Traditionally-published works seem like the work of one person, but often this isn’t the case at all. Books are usually composed by not only an author, but also a team of editors, copyeditors, designers, fact-checkers, and other personnel that hone the work into a professional document. Likewise, if you have a literary agent and ask friends review your work, they can be considered a part of your team. While it’s tempting to be the mastermind behind your masterpiece, no one does it alone.
Author Tips: Motivation
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily” - Zig Ziglar
One of the most overlooked author tips out there is the subject of motivation. If you’ve ever met writers who are continually working on their book year-after-year, you may have sensed that they’ve lost the will to finish. The trick is to maintain your enthusiasm in the same way that you would routinely fill your car with gas on a long road trip. There will be times where your work may seem like it was better fit for the garbage heap; keep writing until you “finish” the work.
Events like NaNoWriMo may be the antidote to your motivation problems. By having a finite goal of 50,000 words, as well as a community of individuals to keep accountable (at least in a quasi-public fashion), you can generate the motivation to finish a rough draft of your new work. Similarly, if you can’t make the November commitment, spread your intentions on social media. Having to face the shame of unfinished work could be just the motivational ticket.
Author Tips: Trust Your Work
Remember that you and you alone are responsible for crafting your work. Don’t discount the idea that others may feel jealous, as your newfound status as an author tips the scale in your personal relationships. It’s not unusual to arouse the envy and pessimism of those around you when undertaking such an all-encompassing task as writing a novel. Trust in your abilities, and take the following quote by author Neil Gaiman to heart:
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
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If you take these author tips to heart, you can be well on your way to realizing your dreams of writing a novel. It is no easy feat, but then again, that may be why you started writing in the first place! Good luck.