I’ve spent my whole life thinking about books and writing. Some of my very first memories are being read to by my father, from the Disney picture book version of ‘Peter Pan’. I could point to that being a strong indication as to why I prefer the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres over all other literary categories. I was seven when I attempted to write my first story.
This is my list of techniques, painfully learnt over the past fifty years:
1/ Just keep writing. This might be self evident, but you would be surprised at how many times I ‘think’ I am writing when what I am doing is just thinking. It is all about bum on seat. Taking notes. Keeping a notebook and pen handy for taking notes. I’ve met a lot of people who talk big about writing that novel … and never do.
2/ Input equals output. There are ideas and inspiration everywhere; the newspaper, your daily walk, listening in to conversations on train trips, in other books and in movies. A real writer should never be bored. Even waiting for a bus should give you something to work with.
3/ First Drafts are for your eyes only. It took me a long time to realise that a first draft needed be readable for anyone but yourself. I suppose this is because I started writing before I had access to a computer. When you have limited resources for editing, you want to get things right first time. Now I know that there is nothing more important than getting the idea down while it is fresh.
4/ Knowing when to stop. This is the skill I lack the most. I tend to edit, edit, edit. There has to be a time to stop and send your baby off for other eyes to see.
5/ Overcoming Writer’s Block. I always have more than one writing project on the go. If I am stuck on one, I will go work on another. If I am completely stuck … a long walk and a shower helps me. I put this down to ‘overload’, as I suffer from the writer’s version of verbal diarrhoea. Too many messages at once ‘freezes’ me, and I need the break to give my brain the chance to shift the traffic jam.
6/ Read. If you don’t love to read, you don’t love to write.
This isn’t a long and complex list. You would be surprised at how long it took me to learn all these lessons – except for the last one, which I’ve known all my life.