I'm super excited to be hosting NJ Simmonds today on my blog ahead of the release of The Path Keeper, the first book of the Indigo Chronicles. A YA fantasy about fate, secrets and how first love truly lasts a lifetime...or two. In this guest post NJ shares some of her writing tips and tricks to get your book onto paper...or screen. I know I'll be using them!
Without further adieu I present NJ Simmonds.
As the saying goes, everyone has at least one good book in them – although few have the tenacity, patience or confidence to attempt to get that story down on paper.
I remember ten years ago telling a friend (who is no longer my friend) that I wanted to be a writer just like her. She gave me a smile, you know ‘that’ smile – the one where it looks like it physically hurts them to raise the corners of their lips – and said “not everyone is born to write. You either have it or you don’t.”
From that date forth I promised myself three things:
- I would become a published writer. Which I did.
- I wouldn’t be friends with anyone who makes me feel like I’ve failed before I’ve even started. So I’m not.
- I would never, ever tell anyone they can’t do something. So here I am, sharing my writing tips with you – because there’s no reason why you too can’t see your book in a shop window one day.
So where do we start? I’m not going to delve into techniques about writing a great plot, characterisation or dialogue – I’m not that supercilious, there are a myriad ways to write well – instead I’m going to talk about how to get on with getting that book out of your head and on to your laptop screen.
- Write for you
This may seem obviously, but for those of you heavily entrenched in Book Twitter and Bookstagram you may already be recognising book theme trends, gaps in the market, genres on the rise and seeing what agents are looking for and worrying about what to write that will get you noticed. Stop. The book industry is a really S L O W world, and believe me when I say that what’s big today won’t be big in three or four years – which is how long it may take you to finish the book, find an agent, sell the book and secure a publication date. So don’t try and predict the future. Write the book that you want to read, that sings to you, that you are totally obsessed with, and I promise your passion and commitment will shine in every word. That’swhat sells a book, that’s what gets you notices.
- Read widely
I know we all have our own tastes, which is fine, but do look outside of your comfort zone – even if just for research. For instance, many people who love YA and only want to write YA (maybe because they are within that age bracket themselves) will only read YA. Great, get to know your preferred genre, but this can backfire. How? Because the writing style, themes and tropes of that genre will heavily influence you and you’ll struggle to think of something outside of the box – and no one wants to read a book full of things they’ve seen elsewhere. Also, because you won’t have the opportunity to compare different techniques; how a thriller writer creates suspense, a romance writer makes you care about the characters or how I horror writer can fill you with dread – all skills you want to be able to apply to your own work. And finally, it’s great to read while you write. A friend of mine (OK, the same not-so-wise friend as before) told me she never read books while writing because she was worried their voice would seep into hers. Guys, you WANT great writers to rub off on you. Don’t be arrogant, soak it allup.
- Don’t worry about sequence
One of the biggest hurdles new writers face is the blank page. I’ve had students ask me ‘but what do I do when I don’t know what happens next’? Well, I’m a planner so normally I’d tell you about spreadsheets and how you need to make friends with your pile of Post It notes – but that’s beside the point. The great thing about writing is that there are no rules. If you want to start your book with the last chapter, do it. If you want to write the first three chapters, take a break, write the chapter with the gruesome murder scene or saucy sex scene, then the ending and finally go back to chapter four, that’s fine too. As long as your arcs and plot work…the writing process itself doesn’t have to be linear.
- Write with your moods
Similar to above, go with the flow and follow your emotions (us writers have plenty of them). If you’ve had a bad day, write the angry scene. If you’re in a happy mood, write the funny dialogue. If you’re chilled, feeling patient, and got time to spare then write the connecting scenes you’ve been putting off all month. This doesn’t always work for everyone, but it worked for me with THE PATH KEEPER. Same goes with writing in your head during the ‘white spaces’ of your day. Instead of daydreaming while hanging out the washing or driving home from work, watch your book like a movie in your head and iron out the plot holes. Go with your own flow and it will never feel like a stressful job.
- Don’t compare yourself to others
And lastly, you do you – and don’t worry about anyone else. The truth is there will always be better writers than you out there and that’s OK. There will be people in your FB writing group who are averaging 2,000 words a night and you’ve re-written that first chapter ten times already. That’s OK. Or those who have a creative writing degree and work in publishing and are best friends with top writers and you only got a D at GCSE English so what chance do you stand? Nonsense, you have as much chance as anyone else. Or those Twitter writers who appear out of nowhere with a film deal, have amazing glamourous lives and churn out bestseller after bestseller and it’s not fair. Well, maybe it isn’t – maybe a lot of it DOES have to do with luck. But a lot of it is also the showreels of people’s lives, because what you can’t see are the five years prior to today when that same person spent every night crying into their pillow because everyone else theycould see on Twitter had become an overnight success and whatever they were doing wasn’t working.
Remember, the only difference between you and that NYT bestseller is that they kept going. Maybe you’ll write that book you’ve always wanted to and only ever show it to your best mate, and that’s enough. Perhaps you’ll write fan fic forever just for fun, or self-publish and make a fortune, or land a top agent and be on the The Bookseller’s front page in two years’ time but never be able to afford to give up the day job. Who knows? That’s what makes this job so exciting/exhausting. But I do know one thing – you won’t get anywhere if you keep that story in your head.
So go on, give it a go. Take that first step and I look forward to seeing you in Barnes & Noble soon – maybe in the aisle, maybe in the shop window!
A huge thank you for those brilliant tips NJ.
If you haven't added The Path Keeper to your TBR yet I suggest you do. If you need a little convincing you can find my review here.
Possibly even more excitingly is the competition that goes along with the blog tour. Carry on reading to find out how you can enter!
That's all from me.
Thank you for reading,
You can find NJ Simmonds at:
You can Pre-Order The Path Keeper:
Every blog tour in the blog has a letter. Collect them all to spell out the answer to this competition question: What does Zac get in the sequel SON OF SECRETS that's very out of character? Prize info and entry details will be posted in The Glass House Glass magazine on release day 28 May 2019. Check out today's letter and competition graphic below.