Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Heidi's Top 10 Tips for a Happy Writing Xmas and New Year!

Hey all

Just wanted to say have a fantastic Christmas... I've illustrated this post with some Christmassy pics I took on my cycle ride home last night, so hope you enjoy them. Wish that amazing house was mine!

And as a special Christmas treat it occurred to me that On the First Night of Christmas is my tenth published book. As readers to this blog will know, I'm currently being tortured by my latest manuscript which was all a bit of a dog's breakfast until I had a long chat with my editor on Friday afternoon. I'm now clear about what needs to be cut (namely about 20K of the 30K I've written!), what needs to be changed (thou hero shall not be a complete git!) and what needs to be finessed (more fun, more flirt, much less fraught)...

So I've put some top tips together for happier writing in the New Year compiled from what I've learned while struggling with this book and others before it...

1). Every Book Is Different: Sounds obvious, but remember unless you're constantly writing the same story, every book will vary according to how easy or how hard it is to write, the important thing is to do whatever is necessary and not stress too much when you hit a roadblock (or several hundred).

2) Beware of the Convenient Plot Twist: Yes, your story will have turning points, but be very wary of a plot twist which conveniently brings your couple together (like a flash fire that burns down your heroine's house and means she has to move in with the hero) or keeps them apart (like a misunderstanding that could be sorted out with a proper conversation) because it may be a substitute for a decent conflict.

3). Make Your Characters Work for Their HEA: This is really an extension of 3, but make sure your characters are both having to grow and change during the course of their story so they deserve to be happy at the end, otherwise your reader will get bored, or worse want to murder them both! Or even worse, you will...

4). A Good Editor's Not Just for Christmas: Published authors have the huge luxury of an editor. Some of my books have had very little editorial input, but others would simply never have reached publishable quality without that essential feedback and advice... So if you're unpubbed, seek out constructive feedback wherever you can, and use it.

5). You're the Only One Who Knows What's Right for Your Story: Sort of sounds like a contradiction of 4 I know, but bear with me here, folks... Basically, you are the creator of your story and those characters and if you lose sight of that, your story will lose it's integrity not to mention it's unique you-ness, so while constructive criticism is important, don't be scared to ignore it, when necessary.

6). Be True to Your Process, No Matter How Naff It Is: It's a constant pain in my backside that my process is very hit and miss, and will often involve re-writing scenes until I get it right. This is because I'm a pantser and I tend to try out reactions for my characters to a particular situation until I know it's the right one. And it's only when the characters are fully formed and understood (usually once the book is written, how useless is that!) that I will know instinctively how they react. But that's just me, I've tried to change it and my writing loses it's spontaneity and integrity as a result... So basically I'm stuck with this naff process... And I'm one with it (she says through gritted teeth)!

7). Don't be Afraid to Take Risks: Or, it's remarkable what you can get away with in a plot... Like a heroine who doesn't realise she's three-months-pregnant... If you do it with conviction and make it believable. Now in the interests of full disclosure, I have had more than a few crits of that particular book (Pleasure, Pregnancy and a Proposition) because some readers were either unconvinced (or just plain outraged) by that plot hook, but it's also my biggest seller (by a long way) so yes, some readers weren't convinced, but for those that I persuaded to suspend their disbelief it was a risk worth taking.

8). You Can't Please Everyone, So Don't Try: Sort of follows on from 7,  but you really can't please everyone, and the last thing you want is to stop taking risks because you're worried about what people will think... Everyone's got an opinion and rightly so, they've paid money to read your book, but in the end when you're sitting down to write, the opinion that counts the most is yours. You know, in your heart of hearts when something works and when it doesn't, because you've read loads of romances yourself (I hope) and you know when they don't work for you.

9). Don't Believe the Little Voice in Your Head: No, I'm not talking about schizophrenia here, but about that little voice that whispers in every writer's ear at the most difficult, demoralising moment in the process of writing their latest story that their writing totally sucks. That it's a complete fluke you ever got published... Or finished a manuscript... It lies!! You can do it. And to prove it, noone who ever believed that Little Voice and stopped writing got published (or kept getting published). So there, take that Little Voice! (And if you need an extra boost, go read Dr Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go!)

10). After the Agony, Comes the Ecstasy: Whether that's just the sense of achievement you feel when you finish a particularly thorny scene to your satisfaction, or the whoop of joy in your stomach when you see your published book on the shelf for the first time, or get a decent review from Dear Author (I got a B this week for On the First Night of Christmas, and boy am I basking here, folks!!). This is bloody hard work, don't ever be fooled by anyone who says it isn't (they're lying!!), but it will eventually be worth it. And just like childbirth, it's agony for a reason, because then the ecstasy is that much more ecstatic. Honest.

So from one writer in North London currently going through the agony...

HAVE A HAPPY WRITING NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

15 comments:

Rachael Johns said...

A brilliant list Heidi. Thanks for sharing. And good luck with that pesky book :)

RLA said...

This is a great list, thank you so much!
I saved it so I can go to it when I feel I'm going wrong!

Hope you have a fab Christmas

Xx

Abby Green said...

Inspirational as usual Ms Rice and was I the inspiration behind your 'flash fire' comment?! Am sure reworking the book will be no bother to you and it'll be so much stronger...well done for grabbing it by the scruff of the neck, or, by the steel buns of your hero's bottom ;)
xx Abby Green

Heidi Rice said...

Cheers Rach, glad it was helpful..

And RLA, does your challenge end on New Year's Eve btw? How is your tally going?

And Ms Green, what on earth makes you think that?? That said, I've had a fair few flash fires of me own... Often disguised as Elvis impersonators.

Have a good one you lot. And thanks for visiting the blog!! Must do a few more posts next year. Once I've wrestled this bugger into submission.

Alexandra said...

Thanks for the list! Hope the agony is over soon. Merry Christmas and all the best for 2012. :o)

Romy said...

Thanks for the tips, Heidi. Some of these need repeating (or maybe sticking up on my pin board!).

Best wishes for the holiday season and the new year.

Heidi Rice said...

Hi Alexandra, yeah, i hope it's over soon too!! End definitely in sight...

Cheers Romy, yes, am planning to have them tatooed somewhere interesting, so I don't keep forgetting them myself. X

Natalie Charles said...

Wonderful tips, Heidi. Thanks so much for sharing your insights!

Brigitte said...

Uh...Heidi, please stay with # 6, the naff process; don't you ever lose that spontaneity in you work. Actually I forbid it; :)
Bises

Heidi Rice said...

Cheers Natalie, glad you found them illuminating!

And Brigitte, don't you worry, I seem to be padlocked to this naff process!! LOL.

Happy Christmas to you both, and a brilliant new year.

Raven McAllan said...

i have nodded yes, wow, oh don't I know it, all the way through this blog. I for one am so glad I kept my conviction and carried on writing.
Once I accepted I could only write MY way, and wrote as I could not as I thought I should, I had my first m/s accepted.
But It's good to know even writers such as you have problems. gives me heart

Heidi Rice said...

That's so true, Raven... Should have added an 11th tip: Don't write what you think other people want to read, but what you want to write!

Doris O'Connor said...

Such wise words Heidi, and I couldn't agree more! Btw I love that story and as it almost happened to me with baby #nine (nine for cripes sake, you'd think I'd known, lol!)that storyline made perfect sense to me.

Look forward to seeing your current wip in print.

Merry Christmas Heidi :-)

RevitaDerm said...

Thanks for sharing. And good luck with that pesky book :)

anna garner said...

Thanks so much for the tips, Heidi! They're so helpful. Best of luck with beating that bad boy into submission (the book, I mean :-)) and have a fantastic new year. See you in Anaheim!