I often hear from people who want to write a book but don’t know how or where to begin. Or from people who have already written a book that’s ready for publication but don’t know how to get it published. I recently began a new blog series, Writing and Publishing Tips From Authors Around the World, to help writers.
The sixteenth contributor is author Hannah Warren who lives in The Netherlands, but has strong ties ties with France, UK and Holland, and she’s here to talk about advice to novice writers. She posted this article on her blog last week and she graciously allowed me to post it on my blog as part of this series. Thank you, Hannah!
My Advice to a Novice Writer by Hannah Warren
This afternoon I had a Skype session with the son of a Dutch friend of mine. This young man has plans to start writing a book in 18 months and wanted to pick my brains about writing. He is very serious about it, has a degree in journalism and is currently saving money to give up his full-time job and start on his endeavour with a 10-hour job so he has all the time in the world to concentrate on his manuscript.
Gosh! He and I couldn’t be more different but that was one of the first things I told him about writers. There are not two that work in the same way or follow the same path. The only thing writers have in common is that they type THE END when the job is done. Those that dream about writing a book, never get to that point.
But it got me thinking about my own path while I was talking to this young enthusiast. Here’s some of the advice I gave him:
1. Try to find an online group of (Dutch) writers, for example on Facebook and discuss your ideas with them. Most of the folk around you are not writers and have no idea what your life or the inside of your mind looks like. Writing stories is already a lonely business in itself and you need to be able to share your passion with comrades, otherwise you’ll start believing you’re even a weirder specimen than you already thought. Let them read snippets of your writing, review the work of others, ask questions, plenty of questions. The proper start of my writing career took off when I joined Authonomy in 2010.
2. Don’t wait 18 months before you pick up your pen/switch on your laptop. Write little tidbits already, do some research for your story, make a character overview in Excel. For me, writing has nothing to do with creating a special atmosphere or waiting for a special time. It only works to JUST DO IT! But then again I would never give up the day job and seriously spend all my working hours on a manuscript. My young friend, however, said that that was the only way to push himself to it.
3. Take part in NaNoWrIMO. Writing 50K in 30 days for me is the best kick-start for a new novel. You have no time to let that horrible inner-critic get hold of you because you have to reach the word count. Again, this works for me, as I suffer greatly from writer’s block and for me it’s the best (only?) way not stumbling over each word that doesn’t exactly fit the bill. Perfectionism is my enemy!
4. Writing is the best thing there is in the world and your worst nightmare. It’s never easy. You’re always sitting comfortably in your office chair uncomfortably out of your comfort zone. Some days are magic, others are agonizing. But beyond and through and above and under it all there is a desire to tell stories, a desire so strong you take all the crap that also comes with it in your stride.
5. Be aware that the publishing industry is completely adrift. Even if you get a contract with a traditional publisher, you’ll have to market your book in more ways than you want to consider. It’s part of the deal and frankly, I can’t say I’ve really accepted and embraced this fact myself.
6. If possible, decide whether you want to write in one genre or in multiple genres. One genre helps to find writer-friends that really support you and can give in-depth advice about how to tackle the specific elements of that genre. And your potential readers will find it easier to relate to your work.
7. Read, read, read. Not crap but authors you really admire and from whom you can learn the craft. It helps when they write in your favourite genre because then your learning curve will be even faster.gay I read as homework, of course it is fun but I’m always aware that I want to see how the author describes a person or how a dialogue flows.
8. When you’re not working on your book, write blogs, on writing, on other hobbies. Reach out to people. Let them know you exist even when the process of writing your book is still in the dark.
Hannah Warren was born in Paris, France in 1956 as a second child to a Dutch father and an English mother but has lived in The Netherlands almost all her life. She has strong ties with her own triangle: France, UK and Holland.
In the 1970s Hannah studied Dutch literature and Mass Communication at the University of Amsterdam. In the 1990s, she obtained a B.A. in English & Translation from Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. She works at HZ University of Applied Sciences in Vlissingen.
Hannah’s 3 children have left the nest, which gives her more time for her hobbies: writing, reading, hiking and listening to audiobooks. She also practices Yoga on a daily basis. In March 2014 Hannah’s 29-year old daughter passed away from bile duct cancer. Only 3 months later her oldest son was diagnosed with a brain tumour and is now fighting for his life. Hannah’s pain is immeasurable and can – apparently – only be soothed by continuing to work and writing books.
From the age of 8, Hannah’s written poetry and short stories but it has taken her almost 50 years to become a published author. In the past years she signed with two small publishing firms that – unfortunately – were forced to close their doors due to lack of finances. In March 2015 Hannah joined the Irish publishing house Tirgearr Publishing, which will soon bring out her two previously published novels.
Hannah likes to write family sagas about strong female characters with challenging lives.