Wednesday, 3 May 2017

5 Lessons I've learnt writing a novel (so you don't have to)




 Writing a novel can seem like an arduous task.But there are ways to make it easier, especially with a bit of pre-planning and organisation.

This is what I learnt writing Vile City, the first book in my Detective in a Coma series.
Plan or you'll fail.

1. You need to be able to tell at a glance what's in every chapter. That includes plot and character development.
Unless you're blessed with a photographic memory (if you are, I envy you) there are a few ways to do this. You can have a timeline on paper or a spreadsheet on your computer.
I prefer to have a summary to go with each chapter on a Word document. I constantly update this and when I’m editing I print it out and constantly refer to it.

Get those character details right, or they'll be trouble.

2. If your characters are going to be in a series do a character profile for each character.
This should cover character, background and appearance. I reserve several pages in a notebook I keep for DI Waddell, his coma stricken pal DC Stevie Campbell (who talks to Waddell even although nobody else can hear) & Co for each character in my Detective in a Coma books. I add details as I write each book. I've just finished book three.

You need to have pertinent details of your characters quickly to hand so you can access them without slowing down your writing by having to search through text for that one detail that you need.

How many times have they been married? Do they have kids and if so what are their names? If they were in an accident who'd be their next of kin? What colour is their hair?
You need to know these things so you won't suddenly change your balding, thrice divorced, childless bachelor into someone with enviable hair, two kids and a first wife.


3. Keep a firm grip on the continuity.
You need to be consistent. No changing characters names halfway through your book. Keep an eye on the details - is your character sitting down when they've recently complained of a back injury and said they couldn't sit down?

In one of my earlier versions of Vile City, I had Shelley Craig who gets kidnapped in the book, deliberately leaving behind a necklace with a charm based on a Monopoly playing piece in one of the places she'd been kept. When my main character DI Waddell finds it the charm on the necklace had changed.



4. Save your first draft and subsequent drafts to at least three places (or four or five...).
We've all done it haven't we - toiled over our writing only to forget to save the new changes we've made or lost it all when our computer went nuts/was hit with a virus/decided that it hated us.

There is nothing worse than losing hours, days and even weeks of hard graft and somebody saying: "Hey didn’t you back it up?" when you sit there looking sheepish because you haven't.

That's why it's important to save your work at least once a day to at least three places - I send my work to two different emails, save it to Dropbox and save it on my laptop and tablet. That way if something goes wrong I won't lose work. I also save my WIP to all these places every time I do any revamping or substantial writing. 


5. Always edit on paper.
Trust me on this, when you read on a laptop or tablet screen you miss mistakes and because it's your writing your brain can trick you into thinking you've written something different to what you have.


For example - I once wrote that a character was wearing a violent jumpsuit rather than a violet one. Major difference. Don’t let your jumpsuit get violent:)

Jennifer's first novel, Vile City, which ironically will be published a few years after the second and third ones she wrote were is out on May 11th and will be launched at Waterstones in Glasgow’s busy Sauchiehall Street the same day starting at 7pm. 

Vile City is published by Caffeine Nights and available for pre-order now https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vile-City-Jennifer-Lee-Thomson/dp/1910720739 

You can meet her on Twitter @jenthom72 or on Facebook

She also writes fiction as Jenny Thomson. 

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