Thursday, January 12, 2012

All Writers Are Different

I know the statement above is stating the obviously but this morning I read a good post by fellow writer here in Dubai, Alexander McNabb. His post is here. All of it is excellent, but it is also very different from the advice I might give.

I'll begin with his point on 'writing books'. He doesn't hold much in store by them but I do. This is probably just down to how different minds work, but I know hand on heart I wouldn't have an agent or a contract today if I hadn't used all the Donald Maass books to revise. In fact they are beside me as I work on rewriting book two. There are other books as well that have helped me along the like like Sol Steins Solutions For Writers. Every writer has different needs or should I say has different problems with their work and whether a book can help fix them depends on what they are and what type of person you are...

McNabb lists blogs that have been helpful for him...aside from The Bookseller none have been ones that have helped me but I will now check them out (hate missing out). There is so much choice out there but my list is:-

Sarah Duncan
Rachelle Gardner
and just recently Kristen Lamb

Then he gives great advice on how to write a's my additional thoughts....

-Write the book of your that it has your passion in it. This is for your first draft. Put it all onto to the page. In this stage don't worry about market, genre or anything else but the story you have tell.

The editing process is where you carve out the refined book from the mass of words. Editing is the point where you take your knowledge of the publishing world and make the book marketable. This is the time where you work for your reader and not for yourself.

-McNabb recommends plotting...this works for some and not for others. I'm not a plotter. I normally begin with a title, a character and a location and sometimes the end - that is it. See the point above. On my first drafts I fly into the wind and let it all happen. However in revision I then plot. I look at where the story has gone...does it make sense...could it be better/stronger? This is where the Maass book come into their own for me. His questions and exercises help me to pull more out of the book.

-He makes a good point about knowing your market, genre and reader....this is very important as you edit. Before you are published and most definitely afterwards it is a key part of your job to know your market and to follow the industry. That does not mean that just because paranormals are on the rise that you should write them but you need to know what is happening.

Knowing your reader is important. If you write YA and you're 40 then you need to know their issues, read what they read and so. I was lucky because I was writing for me. I am my reader...I fit the demographic for women's fiction. To make it more exacting I now imagine my wonderful hairdresser here in Dubai as my reader. Since I have know her back the first time we lived here we have talked books. She reads everything and she reads a lot. So when I'm editing a book I picture her as the one sitting down and absorbing the world I have created. Will she relate to it? Would she pick my book up in a shop?

I recently read Mel Sherratt's TAUNTING THE DEAD. I loved it, it was gripping and I couldn't put it down but I'm not her reader. I don't buy crime thrillers...that's not what I normally spend my book money on. She shouldn't think of me when she's assessing her work.....she needs to think of those who auto buy Martina Cole and the like...

-I totally agree with him on POV in a scene (his pt 2)...keep it to one other wise the reader can become confused and that's the last thing you want. I'd also add make sure that the scene is in the POV of the character with the most to lose...

-I'd add another point...listen to your work. By hearing your work read it becomes distant from you. Don't read it yourself because you can put inflection etc in....try Natural Reader (the free version is good but the voice is unforgiving which dare I say it a good thing)...

But of course the best advice for writing a book is to just do it....

PS....Alex and I are on the same panel for one of the sessions at the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature...could be interesting based on yesterday's twitter discussion on Arab voices finding a global platform :-)


Laura E. James said...

Thanks, Liz. I will take a look at the books mentioned. I read Sarah Duncan's and Julie Cohen's blogs and find Sue Moorcroft gives excellent advice which suits my style of writing.
I don't think we should ever stop learning and evolving.

JO said...

I, too, love 'writing books' - especially when they disagree! This makes me think long and hard - reach a decision about what I think (with permission to change my mind at any time!).

And I would add Nicola Morgan's blog ( funny and very useful.

liz fenwick said...

Laura - you are so right...we can never stop learning!

Jo- Nicola's blog is great...thanks for adding it.


Chris Stovell said...

Excellent post, Liz. And I would thoroughly endorse your recommendation to use Maass's books.

Liz Harris said...

That was a really interesting posting, Liz. Thank you for it. All of your points made excellent sense.

I've never encountered Donald Maass' books, but they sound quite inspirational in their effect. I could certainly use some inspiration at the moment and I shall get them.

Liz X

liz fenwick said...

Liz...I swear by them and today it helped me out of a tight corner! Give it a go.

victoriabantock said...


Just to let you know that I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award in my blog post today


liz fenwick said...

Hi Victoria...many thanks. will check it out :-)