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Author of New Pompeii & The Synapse Sequence

I was at Edgelit Derby a couple of weekends ago and, during a break between panel sessions, I was asked for a “writing tip”.

I’d never been asked for a tip before, but decided to say what I’d found the most useful in pushing my own writing forward: finish your book.

I think I learnt more from finishing one book (that, by the way, was never published and never will be) than I did from starting a dozen. This is because starting a novel is relatively easy. You come up with a cool idea, you add a few characters, and develop the story’s setting. All this will take you to about 10,000 words. And then?

I don’t know about others, but moving from the point of setting the story going to about the mid-point is hard work. The hardest bit. After half-way, the story’s momentum should carry you through to the finish. But the middle – and especially the first half of the middle – is where you end up finding out if you have a novel.

This is where you flesh out the characters, introduce sub-plots, develop the idea, and set-up all the pay-offs that will hopefully start popping in the second half. It’s the heavy lifting – whilst all the while you need to keep the reader engaged and enjoying the story.

The book I finished will never be published. I knew it wouldn’t be published before I’d finished as the central idea wasn’t strong enough, but I still finished it, and edited it and went back to it months later to fix it. I learnt about structure, and plot, and character and then I set it aside and started to write my next novel. As a learning tool, it was invaluable.

So there it is, my one and only writing tip: Finish your book!

Other writing guides I have found useful are below…