Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The winding road to writing by Melissa Wray.

I’ve always wanted to write a book!Plenty of people say this, but how many really mean it? Are you one of those who actually followed through with such a comment? Congratulations! But coming up with an idea is the easy part. It’s what comes next that requires persistence, hard work and a desire to write the best story you can.

You might think you know how to write a story but there is always something to learn. There are lots of ways to improve your craft. If you have written one or even a hundred stories there is still room for improvement. There are three important things to consider first. Plot, character, setting. But this is just the start. Writing has so many more components to it. It would be beneficial to complete a writing course to help get a better understanding. Research what is available and choose one that suits your needs.

You can participate in writing workshops. They are usually facilitated by experienced authors. Not only will you learn tips and strategies, but it’s a great chance to interact with other writers. Also, when possible, listen to other authors talk about their experiences and use their advice. Read author interviews on blogs and in magazines. Each new idea adds to your writing knowledge and understanding.

The more you can develop your knowledge of what makes a good story the better. This can only improve your story when it comes time to write it. Structure, grammar, narrative and other rules of writing are important to know. They will improve your chance of publication and good reviews.

Now let’s fast forward to the two most satisfying words a writer can type. THE END. Your dedication has paid off. The story is finished and ready for an audience. These words should never be typed unless you are ready for the next stage. No, the next stage is not sending the manuscript off to every publisher who prints in your genre. The next critical stage of developing your work is feedback. There are lots of ways you can get this.

Use a Beta reader. They are the first person to peruse your work. Their job is to question the plot, to spot flaws in the planning and execution and to decide if the story makes sense. Your Beta reader can be a trusted friend or family member. But you need to be sure they will be honest. Will they point out all the boring bits in an original draft which you need to improve? Can they identify the inconsistencies through the story that might confuse the reader? Do they read in your genre and know what to look for? These are things you need to consider before relying solely on their feedback.

Some people join a writing group that assists with the writing process. They meet routinely and read aloud pieces of writing they are working on. The group then gives advice and feedback on how it worked. If face to face isn’t your thing then you might join a virtual writing community. The feedback might not be as good but the support will be great. It might also give you some motivation when you need it.  

A Beta reader’s job can also be to proofread for errors. These include; spelling, grammar, tense, point of view and characterisation. They might locate overused words or terms. They can help strip back the use of unnecessary words that slow the story down. A Beta reader is the extra eyes you need to reign in unnecessary waffle.

If you want a truly unbiased opinion use a manuscript assessment service. They will offer impartial advice, make unbiased observations and pick up editing problems along the way.  Think of it as an investment in your writing. The experience can be like a one on one mentoring session. You might not agree with everything they suggest but it would be counter-productive to dismiss their assessment. Sometimes an issue is brought up that you have not even considered. Other times the advice can add extra authenticity to the story. Remember, the assessor is doing exactly what a stranger who buys your book will do. That is reading and judging the validity of the story and your writing.

Big publishing house go through various edits before going to print. There is a reason the authors work is so polished. They have had help along the way. It is arrogant and stupid to think once you have written your story that it can’t get better. Especially, if you are the only person who has read it.

If you expect people to pay money for your work then make sure it is the best you can give them. After all, it’s your name that is attached to it. If you plan on writing more stories then you want the reader to follow your journey. You want to create an audience that enjoys your work and wants more.

Unfortunately not everyone will enjoy the story you write. Neither will they like your writing style. But within their reactions will always be a learning curve for you as a writer. Don’t take it personally, but do take it on board as something to consider in the future. Ultimately though, if you believe in yourself and love the story you have written, then that’s all that matters. After all, we write because we want to tell a story. Everything else is secondary.

Do you have a tip for writing?


  1. Thanks for this insight, Melissa. There is no room for slackness in writing is there? It is sheer hard work and dedication. Thanks for a great post.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it Kaye, thank you. It sure is hard work and dedication but oh so rewarding!

  2. I can't say enough about Beta Readers. The tougher they are, the better your novel will be.

  3. I've been reading If I Tell You...I'll Have To Kill You: Australia's leading crime writers share their secrets. At the risk of sounding disingenuous (I am one of the contributing authors), I recommend this as a wonderful resource for writers of all fiction and a highly entertaining read.

    The opening line of your post reminded me of a line in the book from Geoffrey McGeachin: "it's a well-known fact that 100 per cent of people who manage to get a book published have actually written a book. While actually writing a book doesn't guarantee you'll get published, it puts you several steps ahead of those who haven't."

    I really enjoyed meeting you in Geelong recently. Hope our paths cross again.

    1. Thanks for sharing this great resource Angela. I left your writing workshop so motivated to get editing on my MS, thank you!