Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - Tips and Tricks

M&B Modern/Harlequin Presents author Christina Hollis joins us today with tips and tricks for soaking in all that writerly information out there!

The Web-wide family of writers and readers is a great place to pick up hints and tips on technique. In twenty years as a professional writer I’ve picked up ideas from all sorts of places. Sites like the Pink Heart Society, authorsoundrelations, eharlequin and iheartpresents are a fund of useful information, but for someone just starting out the best advice is probably keep your ears and eyes open – all the time! Have a notebook and pen handy at all times. Don’t rely on memory – jot down everything that takes your fancy and all those fleeting ideas. Whenever you wake up full of inspiration, you overhear an interesting conversation on the way to work or someone tells you about a hot new website, write it down. That way you’ll never be short of inspiration. Keeping it all in one notebook means you won’t waste valuable writing time trying to find ‘that slip of paper…it’s round here somewhere…’

Another good idea is to make a writing shrine. A little temple where you can lay out your stuff and guarantee it won’t be disturbed. It can be really tiny – for years mine was in the cupboard under the stairs. There was just enough room for my reference books, paper, pencils and later, my first computer. Everything was together in one place. More importantly, it could be shut away from sticky-fingered toddlers!

Libraries – your own and public ones – are vital. As an absolute minimum, get the best dictionary you can afford and a thesaurus. If funds allow after that, ask around for personal recommendations. My own favourite book on writing is The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, but there are dozens of others. Don’t forget that public libraries are there to help. They can order books and offer lots of other treats such as internet access and reading groups.

If you want to get published, you’ll have to develop a thick skin. Persistence pays off. Everyone is trying to get into print these days, so agents and publishers are awash with manuscripts. Each one can only take on a certain amount of new work, so they end up sending out a lot more rejections than acceptances. The chances are you’ll notch up a good few rejections, however good your work is. Make sure you always target your work. Only send it to agents and publishers who are actively promoting your sort of writing. Ask what they want, send it to them in the form of the best, cleanest copy you can and never give up!

And finally…

Have fun with your writing! Read as much as you can and join a writer’s group or book club (real or virtual) to exchange views. Writing is a cheap and easy method of entertainment. All you need to get started is a pencil and a piece of paper. Write from the heart, and whether it’s a novel or a diary of your baby’s development, you’ll always produce something to treasure.

Have you written something you’re really proud of? I’d love to hear about it. And if you pop over to and click on christina’s blog (on the right hand side of my home page) you’ll find an easy-to-enter competition with copies of my latest Mills and Boon Modern Romance, Her Ruthless Italian Boss, as prizes.


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