You have lots of great ideas that you want to turn into a book – that’s wonderful! Now the hard work starts. Much needs to happen before an idea becomes a full-grown manuscript. The first step is to hone your writing skills, through advice from other writers and from your potential readers too. Here are some ideas on where to get that support:
On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part-memoir and part-masterclass, On Writing dispels any doubt that a wealth of knowledge and writing skills underpins Stephen King’s prolific output. He starts with a mini-autobiography, discussing his childhood, and the experiences and influences that helped him to become the author he is; this morphs into a section of advice to budding writers, drawn from questions he had been asked (and some he wished he had). The final section of the book is a raw and compelling description of his recovery from his near-fatal car accident in 1999. In serious pain and frustrated with his incapacity, it’s no exaggeration to say that the act of writing helped him to survive that difficult time.
20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias
This is a fascinating piece of literary analysis as well as a useful writer’s resource. Ronald B. Tobias shows how most powerful, engaging stories fall within 20 timeless and universal “Master Plots” – such as Quest, Adventure, Forbidden Love, and Transformation. Each chapter of this book examines one Master Plot, analysing and explaining how it works, illustrating with literary and cinematic examples, and concluding with checklists that keep writers on-track. Ronald B. Tobias also shows how to adapt and develop these themes to suit your characters, making your fiction more cohesive and convincing.
Autobiography is the ultimate “writing about what we know”, but laying bare our lives and those of our circles is fraught with social and emotional risks. Here, 20 memoirists including Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Ayelet Waldman (Bad Mother), tell us why and how they do it. Many of this diverse and talented group talk about a compulsion to write, hoping that their stories will resonate with and help someone else. Others dispense advice on how to handle the (both positive and negative) reactions to their work. Part bibliography, part personal reflection and part writer’s manual, Why We Write About Ourselves is inspiring and highly readable.
Cheryl Klein is an experienced editor at Scholastic Books, and this is her comprehensive guide to crafting great middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her advice ranges from writing and editing to pitching your idea, navigating the publication process and choosing an agent. A range of writing exercises will challenge you to analyse, critique and revise your work. The Magic Words offers a nice balance between encouragement with pragmatism, and the wealth of insider tips will help you refine your masterpiece into a compelling, publishable form.
Once Upon a Slime: 45 Fun Ways to Get Writing… Fast! by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Once Upon a Slime encourages kids to have fun creating stories and playing with words. Drawing upon the skills of the hugely successful Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, this book can be enjoyed on many different levels – as an activity book, as a series of writing exercises, as Andy Griffiths’ story on how he became a writer, and also as a sneak peek at the creative processes of this mighty duo. Once Upon a Slime is simply fun to read, full of examples from Andy and Terry’s books. It speaks directly to kids and young people but is also useful for teachers and caregivers – make this your go-to guide for encouraging young people to start writing.
Using Social Media to Develop your Writing Career
The rise of social media has changed the publishing landscape profoundly. It has enabled authors to engage with potential readers even before publication; it has helped authors to connect and form supportive communities; and it has created new pathways to publication, either by self-publishing, or by attracting publishers through your profile as a blogger / social media influencer. Here are two writer- and writing-specific communities worth your attention:
Tablo (tablo.io) is a self-publishing platform that also helps writers engage with their readers – and for readers to discover new books and/or writers in their favourite genres. Writers can upload works-in-progress to seek feedback. Publishers also have a presence on Tablo, and there are communities offering advice to aspiring writers.
Wattpad (wattpad.com) is a reading app with social networking features that helps writers interact with readers and promote their work. Wattpad has become a huge repository of user-generated stories, some of which have been adapted into successful TV series and movies. Wattpad also hosts writing contests and has helped secure book deals for their most popular contributors.