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10 Things I've Learnt Writing My First Manuscript

Lara's Writing Guide


1. I'm definitely a planner.

I finished my first manuscript finally when I was 18, but I'd been writing for many years trying to finish one. Halfway through, I'd always convince myself that I could continue with just half a plot and no definite ending.

Planning out an entire plot gave me a direction to follow. It also made sure that the scenes I was writing made sense and actually led to the ending I intended.

You may be a pantser but I'm definitely a planner. 

2. Context is everything.

I wanted to reveal the details of my world gradually because I hate info dump, but that became a problem when my editor's the main problem was that she struggled to make sense of my world because I gave away too little.

Don't be afraid to reveal things to your readers. Tell them. They need to become part of your world. 

3. Get to know your characters.

Like a real person, your character's past is going to affect their present—not just the big events, but the small ones. I read a lot of amateur writing and a lot of the characters were based on only a few if not a single event. It's the small details that brings the character to life (I think); for example, the way Tris in Divergent by Veronica Roth finds herself looking to the mirror involuntarily because she's normally not allowed in her faction.

Your character could eat caramel ice cream when they're sad or ill because that's what their father used to give them when they were a kid. Bring your character to life. 

4. Have patience. Don't rush it.

If you want to be published by a publishing company, enjoy taking your time with your first manuscript. After you're officially published, you will be working on a deadline for all the books in the future so why not take your time with the first. 

5. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.

When you get to editing, don't just read over your work to find mistakes because you'll end up reading what you want to see. Open a new document and rewrite your work. You're more likely to catch mistakes. This is will make the editing process quicker and easier when you give it to a professional. 

6. Everyone has their own pace.

I am a slow writer. I started my manuscript as part of NaNoWriMo, an online writing challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. A lot of writers have completed. I am not one of them. The most I managed was about 19,000 words yet I felt as if I was writing through all my spare time. I heard some writers say they can get 3000+ down in one day. I have never managed that, but that's okay. Everyone's is different. Don't worry too much about it. 

7. Start at the end.

If you struggle creating a plot like I did, then it may help you to start at the end and work backwards. You need to know where your story is heading right? It doesn't really work for genres like romance, but this method could be very helpful for crime and fantasy genres. You need to know who the killer is before you can say what evidence is going to be discovered that will implicate them.

Figure out your ending then think about how the scene before leads to this and then the scene before that... etc. 

8. Who do you want to read your work?

If you answer this with everyone, then no one will read it. The way you write a story is determined by your readers. You wouldn't write a tween novel in the same way you would write a novel aimed at adults. 

9. It takes longer than you think.

It can take months, sometimes years, to write a first draft and then comes editing. Editing can be a long and creativity draining task. I planned on taking 6 weeks for editing, but ended up taking 3 months+. Start putting ideas together for a book launch and/or tour, but do not finalise or book any dates until you've finished editing.

10. Have fun. I mean it. 

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