Quite like Yoga, writing too is a journey of constant self-improvement. Here I share some tips, techniques and resources that helped me improve my writing to get an international publishing deal:
1. Read and re-read these books about the craft of writing
As a veteran of many rambling writing classes and a ton of books with complex frameworks, I can safely say that the only two books which helped me with the craft of fiction were:
- Gotham Workshop: Writing Fiction: I read this again and again to get insights on everything from plot to dialogue to scene to character.
- Plot and Structure by James Bell: This one is more basic but the simple LOCK (Lead, Objective, Conflict, Knockout) method is a great background frame for both overall plot and every scene.
2. Read these books to make your writing commercial.
The purists would find the books below too formulaic. I don’t disagree. While I would never use their advice as is, I found it helpful to keep the principles of commercially successful books at the back of my mind while writing.
- Save the Cat: A delightful step-by-step guide on writing a commercial plot.
- The Hit Lit: An interesting analysis of the most successful novels in history from THE GODFATHER to THE DA-VINCI CODE.
3. Browse Internet writing tips and articles in your lunch break.
Just search “fiction writing tips” on the Internet and hundreds of links like the below will come up, some useful, some not so useful.
I’ve looked at articles like these for years in my down time and have picked up tips which have helped my writing—from the minor (don’t use the word “as”, like in “He talked on the phone as he walked”. Two actions shouldn’t be happening in parallel in fiction too often) to the profound (Fiction should have both a propulsive and an assaultive force i.e. characters should propel themselves, not be propelled by the author).
4. Throw a lot of your writing away.
Yes, we’ve been taught that writing is revision and yes, we know that it takes many drafts to complete a novel. But here I’m talking about writing and throwing entire manuscripts away. You have an instinctive feel when you’ve finished a book whether it’s worth salvaging or not. If your gut tells you it isn’t, just discard the whole thing. No word is wasted in that exercise and every effort helps you grow as a writer. I discarded two full drafts of THE SEEKER before I finally crystallized my themes and wrote the current version of it. And I know this version wouldn’t have been possible without those earlier dashed efforts.
5. Hire a freelance editor before sending your novel to agents/publishers.
You may have written the next great American novel but a freelance editor can still help you dive deeper into your character motivations and plot decisions. And in today’s competitive market to get a top literary agent, you’ll need to get your book pretty near perfect before sending it out.
Here are two editors I’ve worked with and highly recommend.
- Sarah Cypher: She gave me a critique after my first draft and was very deep and insightful.
- Marlene Adelstein: I asked her to do a full-line edit after I completed and her notes greatly improved the final draft.
Meditation stops the fluctuations of thought waves, allowing you to concentrate on just one thought, one idea at a time. Begin your meditation practice today and you’ll see your creative output transform with the growing one-pointedness of your mind.
And if you want a more thorough step-by-step guide to write a novel, don’t forget to sign up for my full video course on How to get a Top 5 publishing deal.
I cover everything from idea to outline to writing structures to writing psychology and discipline and querying techniques that guarantee top literary agent representation in the material . This is the first time I’ve offered a video course and the response has been delightful. Signing up is free!