I have so enjoyed writing this 10-part series for All About Writing. Today is my final article, and I would like to tell you a bit about what I am writing now and discuss how writing does get easier with each book. I am currently working on my fifth novel, The Legend, which is the final book The Legacy Trilogy. The deadline is September, and for the first time, I am feeling the pressure of having a contractual obligation to fulfill. I have learnt so much in the course of writing my first four novels, and I am pleased to say that with every project it gets a little bit easier.
New authors fumble their way through their first book. We make a lot of common mistakes, but with each round of editing and readers feedback, we learn from these mistakes. Initially, I struggled with tense consistency and transitions. My writing style is fast-paced and I like the big “shock” moments, followed by a transition that will leave the reader desperate to know the outcome, but I never considered that these might be “jarring” and confusing. Over the course of my writing career I have learned that you can tone down these cliffhanger scene endings while still preserving your natural style.
New writers tend to overestimate our readers. We take for granted the intimate knowledge we have of our manuscript, forgetting that the reader is only aware of what has been put down on paper. They do not have all the facts and back-story that you, as the creator, have access to. It is imperative that your plot and progression are clear and fully explained so that the reader does not lose interest in the story as a result of becoming frustrated.
Another thing I have learnt is that you do not need to impress your reader with large and complex words every other sentence. Less is more, and they have far more impact if used seldom. Reading should be effortless, not a trial, and unless you are appealing to a literary audience, your impressive vocabulary will sadly impress only you.
Dialogue for a new writer is also a tricky concept to navigate. Being an English graduate, I was inclined to write my dialogue as it should be written, in accordance with the rules of English as I had been taught. What I failed to realize is that dialogue should be written as it is said, in order for it to be plausible. People do not speak in the “Queen’s English”. They abbreviate, use slang, and speak in contractions. My very first editor gave me the following sage advice when it comes to writing dialogue – she said that I should say the words out loud. It made all the difference, when you speak the words aloud you realize that your character sounds stilted and formal.
Transitions should also be smooth and handled carefully. Moving through time or place without cueing your reader does not always have the dramatic effect you were aiming for. Instead, it can cause confusion and frustration.
Sadly, new authors make more mistakes, and added to that, we are criticized more harshly. The fact that we are unknown puts us in the crosshairs and readers are inclined to be less forgiving. Established authors who produce a book that is perhaps not up to their usual standard will still, in all likelihood, be supported when they release their next title, whereas an unknown will probably not be afforded the same opportunity.
Growing as a writer comes with time and experience. Writing is a craft, and the more you write, the better you become. You learn from your mistakes and you improve beyond recognition. I am exceptionally proud of the books I have already published, but I have no doubt that my greatest masterpiece is still to come.
The Legacy (book 1 of The Legacy Trilogy) and The Legion (book 2) will be published by Tracey McDonald Publishers in July 2014. The final book, The Legend, will be released early 2015.
An avid reader herself, Melissa finally decided to stop ‘watching from the sidelines’ and to do what is her passion.
“I was driving home from work when inspiration struck, and a storyline started unravelling in my head. For a few days it was all I could think about and eventually I realised that the only way to get it out of my head, was to put it all down on paper. I started writing, and that was that.”
The Legacy Trilogy Website: www.thelegacytrilogy.com
Publisher’s website: www.traceymcdonaldpublishers.com