The good news is that my first published novel, Due Diligence is doing rather well. Much better than I could have reasonably hoped, in fact.
Better news is that the second Jenny Parker novel, Proceeds of Crime, is also selling well because people like Due Diligence so much they’re buying the sequel.
Even better news is that the third book, Limited Liability, is almost ready to publish.
So how did I arrive at this happy situation?
First of all, I write. And write and write. Anything, everything. Every day. I find it essential to have a daily writing habit. Waiting to free up hours of quiet undisturbed writing time doesn’t work for me. It never happens. I find that if I write an hour a day I can complete a novel in a year.
Secondly, I write with a great deal of freedom. I don’t revise or edit. I don’t look back at what I’ve written, I just keep on going. I’ve embraced a wonderful technique called Freefall (www.freefallwriting.com) and I’ve found it works for me.
Thirdly, I’ve been fortunate to find a brilliant editor.
I can’t read my own writing. No, it’s not illegible, that’s not what I mean. The problem is that I know what I meant to write and I have the entire back story of all the characters in my head. I tend to forget which bits I’ve bothered to share with the reader.
Editing myself turns into picking and scratching at the prose, substituting a less suitable word here and changing a few lines for the worse there.
I can’t see the big picture. I have difficulty in seeing any picture other than the one already in my head. Whether I have managed to communicate it is a different matter entirely.
In the past, I have given my precious scripts to my friends and family to read. Their feedback is always positive and completely unhelpful. Kindness and understanding are wonderful attributes unless applied to literary criticism.
By the time I hired my first editor I’d already written three science fiction novels. He didn’t like them much. He thought the main character was an arse, which was disappointing because he was pretty much autobiographical. However, his advice and feedback were instrumental in my development. I put all that practice and disappointment to good use.
So, my advice to any writer is as follows:
Write until you have finished, don’t look back, don’t edit, don’t revise, don’t make corrections. Finish it.
When you have finished it, whether it is half a page or 250,000 words, put it away somewhere safe. Somewhere you can retrieve it from but not too easily.
Then write something else.
And something else, maybe.
One day you will decide to look at what you have written and when you do remember to be kind and gentle. If you are feeling picky, or your football team is having a hard time, or the dog has been sick on the kitchen floor, put your writing away and deal with the crap first.
Read it, make it legible and correct any really obvious things, like repeated words and repeated words.
Then send it to someone who doesn’t care a toss for your sensibilities. This unfeeling person is known in the trade as an editor. Ask for a critique, send them some money and only then will you know if you are on the right track.
If you want an honest opinion at a very reasonable price, I recommend Fiction Feedback http://www.fictionfeedback.co.uk/