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Tips on writing: Writing books

Published on October 23, 2012 by

I get loads of people emailing me about writing books. They send their half-finished manuscript, or a manuscript they want to sell to a publisher – or they simply want some advice for tips on writing or how to publish their book.

So…if y’all want it, I thought I better start giving a lil.

Note: Advice will be given in random and irregular order.

But the best advice on writing books is to find more advice! I’ve done courses, and read books, and taken on help from many, many that came before me. One of the biggest mistakes upcoming authors make is to be too arrogant about your own work. And you know what? I was a little like that myself at first. Give it up quickly and you will reach your goal a lot faster.

The following is a recent email response I sent to a hopeful author about writing books, and I think it is probably good advice for anyone writing books for the first time.

Straight away, the biggest beginner’s mistake is – you have to watch your voice.
It was changing back and forth from a passive to an active voice.
I recommend you stick to the classic third person past tense, as it’s easiest for the writer and the reader: He said, he did, then he did this, then he picked up that.
But it’s up to you.

Obviously, your story doesn’t have to be in third person past tense, but if it is going to be in third person, I would strongly recommend it. Either way, make sure you strictly stick to one! If you don’t know what this means, Google it now! Because it is extremely important and the most common mistake.

The more you write, the more you will realize how hard it really is to complete a novel.
Even be prepared to turf your first draft completely! It sounds harsh, but someone said that to me when I wrote my first novel years ago, and I didn’t think I would, but I did. That novel will probably never be published until I completely re-write it, but I learned all about writing books as I did it. It was a great exercise.

Read some ‘written books’ on ‘writing books’, because it is way harder than you probably think it will be. A great book that’s easy to read is On Writing by Steven King, about writing.

It’s also especially important to study grammar and style guides if you want to self-publish, because you will have to pay an editor, and the more work they have to do, the more it will cost you.

More on self-publishing later.

One small thing many people miss when writing books, is the format. Especially with dialogue. Pick up some books and really analyze them. See how the text is laid out and how the paragraphs are set.

More on this later.

I have been writing and editing full time for years now and I still learn stuff every single day. I don’t want to turn you off – but that’s the reality. You really need to study your craft.

It’s the same for everyone. The people who just turn up and write a book are the people who never get published. Writing is a full time profession, so like anything, you can’t expect to just roll up and write a good one.

Or, you could just write it and see how you go! Depends how serious you are, or if it’s just to have a go.

Anyway, have a think, and if you really are passionate and pumped for it let me know and I will keep posting anything and everything I may have picked up over the years.

2 Comments  comments 

2 Responses

  1. craigd

    Thanks Jarrah this is great. I am passionate and pumped for it, so I hope you keep posting this stuff! Love your book and your mag.

  2. Shalana

    Me too! I have had an idea in my head for a book for soooo long. You’re really inspiring me to take the next step. Keep those tips coming

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