It takes a lot of work and know-how to write a book that appeals to a wide audience – so much so, that we decided 5 top tips were simply not enough!
So here are six more top tips for writing commercial fiction, direct from authors we spoke to on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast – click the episode number to listen to the full discussion!
1. Learn about the business
Sandy Barker, episode 340
“Learn about the biz. It's not often the most fun part, but marketing is really important. Having a platform, having a brand as an author is really, really important. And part of that is honing your query letters and your synopsis. Think about what your career can be [right from the beginning]. Because this is an industry – it's a business just like any other – so if you can learn as much as you can about it, then that will help you.”
2. “Kill your grandma”
E. Lockhart, episode 336
“One of my favourite tips is ‘Kill your grandma’. This does not mean kill your real grandma. But when you are writing, if you are thinking about what your grandma is going to think, or what your dad is going to think, or what your partner or your spouse is going to think, or what your children are going to think, you are not going to be able to write. Especially your YA [novel] about sexual things or murder or misery or drugs or something, right? You are going to be completely unable to write this if you're worrying about your children reading it, or your grandma.
“Let your desk be a world where those people do not exist. They do not need to read your thing, they are not going to read your thing, they are not going to judge your thing. Nobody is seeing your thing that you care about.
“But you really cannot write your full self if in your head all those people that you care about are judging your sensitive weird thoughts. So kill them off.”
3. Get a notebook or handy phone app to record your ideas
Pamela Cook, episode 315
“Always have something at hand to write down an idea. I use my phone a lot now because I know I can never remember something later. I'll have a great idea for a story or something that could go in the one I’m writing – but it's gone by the time I get home. Either use your voice recorder on your phone or your notes in your phone and just write it down, even if it's in abbreviated form.”
4. Be realistic about whether you’ll enjoy the process
Lisa Jewell, episode 311
“I think it's very, very important not to expect it to be enjoyable. If you're [writing] and you're finding it really hard, and you're not enjoying it and you think everything you're writing is terrible, just ignore those feelings. What you need to do is find a story that you want to tell badly enough, and find people whose story you want to tell badly enough, to keep going and keep going and keep going, even when you're having a horrible, horrible [time]. It's not fun. Writing a book is not fun. There's lots of things about being a writer that are fun, but the actual writing isn't.”
5. Keep your ears open
Jodi Gibson, episode 310
“Keep your ears open. Because story ideas are everywhere. and I'm a firm believer in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic – that the stories are out there waiting for you to hear them. You might be on the train and you overhear a conversation, it piques your interest; write it down. Because I think once you've got it out, you allow more ideas to come in. Keep your ears open, because they're out there.”
6. Try a different genre
Nicola Moriarty, episode 304
“If you're having any trouble staying motivated or you’re getting bored with what you're writing, try writing a different genre just for the fun of it. I found when I was at uni and I studied writing, I found that getting the opportunity to do nonfiction writing or to write in all sorts of different genres that weren't the normal thing that I would like to write, really opened me up to new ideas and things and made me feel excited about writing.”
Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is working on a new novel. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.