Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction (or other genre) Writers
Read, read, read. You need to know your genre. If you’re writing about zombies and vampires, what kind of mythology has already been created? Look for common threads in other works in your genre. Get to know what the reader expects, then excite and thrill them. Exceed their expectations.
Study other authors; find out what makes their stories successful. If you’re writing Romance novels, then read the leading authors in that genre. If you write horror, read everything Steven King has written. Learn from the experts.
I really admire Elizabeth George. I try to write character driven thrillers as she writes character driven mysteries. This goes against the grain. Most thrillers are plot driven and all action. If you read The Da Vinci Code, you will notice that there is no character development in the entire novel. The characters are the same at the end of the book that they were at the beginning. I want my characters to have an arc and to grow and develop as a result of the situations they are placed in. But I got this from reading many, many thrillers and consciously deciding what I wanted to do.
Be disciplined. Create your writing time and environment, then stick to it. I write every morning, seven days a week. It’s my most creative time. I get up, make coffee and sit down at my computer. After a couple of hours, I get up, make breakfast, then go back to work.
When I was working, I got up at 4:30 every morning and wrote for two hours before I went to work. I produced a prodigious amount of work.
Don’t let life’s little detours stop you. We all have them. I sometimes have temporary road blocks, but I always get back to work as soon as possible. As I write this, we are six miles off of Cape Colonet Mexico, heading north for San Diego.
Before we left La Paz, the bearings on the drive shaft on my boat burned out. We spent two long hard weeks repairing them and getting ready for the voyage. I got no writing done during this period.
However, as soon as we were off shore and headed north, I started writing everyday again.
Sometimes you experience hardships. I can’t tell you how hard it is to type when the boat is heeled over and I keep sliding away from the keyboard. But, I keep writing anyway. I have to maintain my discipline.
Find a writers’ critique group. I can’t over emphasize the importance of having peers review your work. They find all sorts of little (and big) problems with your writing that you might miss.
Look hard and find a group of people who can help you. I was in two critique groups before I found the right one.
The first group was a group of ladies that were hobbyist and beginning writers. They didn’t want to say anything negative. They were very nice people, but they weren’t helping me. I needed to hear what was wrong with my writing.
The second group included a woman who was brutally honest. She tore me to pieces and I went home thinking I would never write again. After three or four days, I finally admitted that she had a point and I needed to re-work that piece.
The problem was not her criticism, but how she gave it. I always valued what she had to say, but she said it in such a mean way that it was crushing.
Finally, I was lucky enough to fall in with a group of writers who were all better than me. I listened and learned, contributing what I could. They really made me a writer.
Be persistent. Never give up. Never stop trying. So what if an agent rejects your work? That’s only one person’s opinion. Until you have twenty or thirty rejections, just keep going. When you reach critical mass on rejections, then it’s time to stop and think about what you’re doing. What can you change to make your work more appealing.
But for heaven’s sake, don’t give up. Keep at it.
Let me leave you with a little story.
As I was preparing to make my epic voyage south to Mexico, I decided that I needed to read John Steinbeck’s The Log of the Sea of Cortez. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors and I was surprised that I hadn’t read this book yet.
Finding the Log was not easy. Your corner bookstore probably doesn’t carry it. While I was searching for a copy, I discovered that Steinbeck wrote a book about pirates, A Cup of Gold. That’s right, one of my favorite authors wrote a pirate tale about Captain Morgan and I never heard of it.
I increased my search parameters and eventually found both The Log of the Sea of Cortez and A Cup of Gold.
I eagerly read A Cup of Gold and learned an important lesson. It was Steinbeck’s first book, and it was awful. If he could start out with a book this bad and still become John Steinbeck, then there is hope for all of us.
Keep at it. Work hard every day. Learn. Grow. Get better at your craft. Success does not come to the faint of heart.
Hacker for Hire, a suspense novel about corporate greed and industrial espionage, is the second book in a series about Latino computer security analyst Ted Higuera and his best friend, para-legal Chris Hardwick.
The goofy, off-beat Ted Higuera, son of Mexican immigrants, grew up in East LA. An unlikely football scholarship brought him to Seattle.
Chris, Ted’s college roommate, grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father is the head of one of Seattle’s most prestigious law firms.
Ted’s first job out of college leads him into the world of organized crime where he faces a brutal beating. After being rescued by beautiful private investigator Catrina Flaherty, Ted decides to go to work for her.
Catrina is hired by a large computer corporation to find a leak in their corporate boardroom when the previous consultant is found floating in Elliot Bay.
Ted discovers that Chris’s firm has been retained by their prime suspect. Now he and Chris are working opposite sides of the same case.
Ted and Catrina are led deep into Seattle’s Hi-Tech world as they stalk the killer. But the killer is also hunting them. Can Ted find the killer before the killer finds him?