Writing tips and techniques – Authors’ advice
- Appreciate beforehand that writing isn’t easy. Be ready to make mistakes – you will probably have to come back and edit it later
- Write without editing along the way – and don’t worry about completing sections before you move on.
- Write in short sentences and paragraphs
- Back up your ideas with research, examples, statistics, quotations etc., but don’t overwhelm your readers
- Take regular breaks, and get out of your chair to stretch or get some air – to prevent aches and pains, and to maintain energy levels
- Each time you start writing, refer back to your overall plan and what you wrote the previous time, to ensure continuity of style
- Leave your copy for several hours or days (ideally) before you move onto revising and editing.
“Always carry a notebook – and I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” Will Self
“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem…. Open a gap for your words, create a space. Be patient.” Hilary Mantel
“Treat writing as a job. Be disciplined. Lots of writers get a bit OCD-ish about this. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words a day… My minimum is 1,000 – which is sometimes easy to achieve, and sometimes not …
“But I will make myself stay at my desk until I’ve got there, because I know that by doing that I am inching the book forward. Those 1,000 words might well be rubbish, but it is always easier to return to rubbish words at a later date and make them better.” Sarah Waters
Revising and Editing
Split this part into stages, one devoted to checking the content and structure (revising) and one devoted to the more detailed word choice, grammar etc (editing).
Use different marks in the margin to indicate typos, gaps, change needed, rewording etc. Be prepared to be ruthless where necessary – chopping and changing is so easy on a PC. Time spent editing may seem annoying to new writers, but we don’t always get things right first time – it’s normal for people to spend 20%+ of the total time editing. Comfort yourself that each time it is getting better.
Be sure to go through several drafts/edits.
- Check all the points in your plan have been covered
- Check each issue is dealt with, and you move smoothly between points
- Check chapter introductions/conclusions relate to the surrounding text
- Ask yourself questions such as: Does the introduction capture people’s imagination? Are there bits that seem awkward or lacking? Are all your points backed up? Are the points arranged effectively? Do you meet the book’s claim, purpose and title?
Editing (The 5 Cs)
- Correct spelling and grammar
- Consistent style and layout
- Clear language, information and text layout
- Complete explanation of terms and abbreviations
- Concise language, with information presented simply and directly.
“Don’t hold on to poor work. If it was bad when it went in the drawer it will be just as bad when it comes out.” Jeanette Winterton
“Editing is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life.” Esther Freud
“Love what you do” – “Take no notice of anyone’s comments who you don’t respect.” Jeanette Winterton