A Writer’s Life: Tips for Aspiring Authors

Welcome to the Land of Self-Motivation

It’s an obvious one. No one is going to force you to write (not unless you’re on a publishing deadline – but, even then, it’s still up to you), so it’s up to you to find the motivation to keep at it. This is not something you can do once a week. You need to write every single day.

Write. Research. Plan. And, of course…

Grow your social media presence! More on that later.

Between 2016 and 2019 I was working three jobs. I had my full-time job as a Social Media Coordinator at Booktopia, a part-time job on the weekend at a cafe and after hours I would work on my novel. This was hard. I would have to say ‘no’ to plans because I was working on my novel. You have to treat your writing like work – and I don’t mean in a negative ‘ugh I have to go to work’ kind of way – but in that you have to do it.

You can’t be a published author if you don’t have a book to publish.

You have to work at it every single day because how else are you going to get better? Practice makes perfect, am I right?

I met Neil Gaiman a few years back while I was working at Booktopia and, as a huge fan of his, I was extremely nervous to meet him. I can safely say that he is a delight. When he found out I was a writer (this was before I was published) he turned to me with interest. My lack of belief in myself led me to say “Yeah but I’m nowhere near as good as you”. Neil responded by saying “I wasn’t as good as me when I first started out either.”

Firstly, what a lovely thing to say! Secondly, that was exactly what I needed to hear. Every author out there – every artist, every business owner, every single person who has achieved something – would understand the truth behind those words. If you don’t work at it, how are you going to get better? Writing is a learning process. Keep writing, keep reading, keep researching… you will get better.

Wear it like a Onesie

I’m going to jump in here and say something about Booktopia. Working in the industry I was aiming for was unbelievably helpful. I spent my days talking about books, reading books and meeting authors. It gave me that extra little push that I needed to make me go:

“Yes. This is what I want!”

I would be in a room with a best-selling author and I would look at them and talk to them and I would be consumed with this sensation. I wouldn’t call it jealousy. I would call it inspiration, plain and simple. I saw these authors and I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to sit in the ‘author chair’ and sign books of my own.

By the end of 2019, I was sitting in that author chair.

Wear your passion like a onesie. Let it be all consuming.

You don’t have to work in the industry you’re aiming for. Sometimes that won’t be possible. But surround yourself with the world you love. You want to be a writer? Well, follow authors and book bloggers and other readers on Instagram. Blog about books, review them, rate them, rant about them. Go to book events and industry events wherever you can. Start a book club. Join a writing community. Do a writer’s course. Read every blog post by every author you’ve ever loved. It helps, trust me.

Your self-motivation will start when you surround yourself with the passion and motivation of others in the same field.

That’s how it happened for me, at least. With that can often come inspiration. You see what’s popular in the world of books, you see the gaps, the story that still needs to be told. Be inspired!

Ignore Eddie

I’ll tell you a little story. When I moved to Scotland at the start of 2020, I was overwhelmed with homesickness and fear. I was so alone, so scared and a little lost. I thought that I was in over my head. And more than anything I wanted my family and friends from home. So much so that I would often let my sadness overwhelm me.

This sadness, this inability to be positive, this fear… it felt as if Bronwyn had stepped out of her body and someone else had stepped in. I didn’t feel like myself. I called this persona Eddie. Why Eddie? I’m a huge fan of the TV show Friends, it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed. There’s this episode called The One Where Eddie Won’t Leave. Eddie is Chandler’s new roommate who seems cool at first. Then he shows his true colours. He is crazy, simply put. Chandler asks him to leave but Eddie refuses. He basically stalks Chandler, scaring him in the middle of the night, holding up manikin heads in windows, killing fish… it’s all rather insane.

Naming my sadness Eddie really helped me control it. So when I started to feel sad or despondent, I would say ‘F*CK OFF EDDIE!’

And eventually, Eddie f*cked off.

This concept of ‘Eddie’ is not a new concept for me, or for you, I’m sure. Any moment of doubt I have can be traced back to Eddie. He is the roadblock in my mind. He is telling me that I’m not strong enough, that I’m not good enough. And sometimes he just. Won’t. Leave.

If you doubt yourself, if you feel like your story isn’t good enough, if you don’t think you’ll ever be published… tell Eddie to f*ck off! You have to, have to, have to ignore the doubt, ignore the distractions, ignore whatever it is that stops you from believing you can do it.

#SocialMedia #Love #AuthorLife

Ah, Social Media. I have a love/hate relationship with it. No matter how you feel about it, one thing is true: we are living in a social media world and you must become a social media girl – or boy.

I love Instagram most of all. It’s such a fun platform and it’s managed to hold onto some of this ‘innocence’ that other platforms have lost. The great thing about Instagram is that it is home to the #bookstagrammers of the world. The people who love books so much, they dedicate their whole page to showcasing the books they’ve loved and read. This is our market! Get in there. Engage. Be present, be ‘social’, be one of them.

I didn’t have a social media presence before I became published… well, barely. Now is the time to start. Grow that following now. Showcase your writing, behind-the-scenes, book photos, reviews… you name it. The earlier you start, the larger your following can grow so that by the time you’re a published author – BAM. You’ve already got an audience.

Hello Google, I’m Bronwyn

Ah, Google. Used so often that the word has become it’s own verb. ‘Google it’, my friends. Google is your best friend. You can’t know everything, you can’t experience everything… that’s why the writing gods invented Google.

Plus, you’ll get some weird search engine results, which I personally always find hilarious. No, I am not planning on killing anyone. Not in real life. But you wouldn’t know that from my search engine results. Oops.

Right now I am writing a new series. There is so much involved in this… especially since it’s fantasy and I’m planning to do multiple POVs. I’m really excited by this new challenge but it means I have a lot more to research. I don’t just have to know one character inside out, I so far have eight main POVs… and I’m not a 51 year old male drug lord with a limp and three kids. So I need to do some research.

Research, is what I’m saying. Prepare and research. However, you don’t want to get caught up in the research or editing phases forever. To be a working author, you should be producing a new piece of work at least once a year, if not every second year. This is going off my experience working in the industry. I would see the same authors multiple times a year sometimes, with their latest books. For more people, being an author doesn’t pay that much so if you want to do it full-time, you can’t spend five years researching that next novel. Well, you can, as long as you have other projects going on at the same time!

The ‘But Why’ Method

Your characters must become your new best friend. I use a character profile – complied from ones I found off the internet – that are tailored to whatever story I’m writing. After I figure out a rough plot, this is where I start. I want to get to know my characters so well that it’s as if we’ve known each other our whole lives.

If you decide you want your character to have a certain trait, follow it up with but why? That’s right – become the annoying six year old child that asks ‘but why’ after every single thing you say.

‘No you can’t pull on the dog’s tail.’
‘But why?’
‘Because it hurts them.’
‘But why?’
‘Because the dog’s tail is their spine and spines are very sensitive.’
‘But why?’

I would stop answering there, because all I know is that spines are delicate but I can’t overly explain why. But you get my point. But why, but why, but why. You are a real person. Everything you do and think and feel and believe in comes from somewhere. An experience, information you learned as a child, the books you read, a bad memory from childhood. The same has to be true for your characters. Make them real. Make them 3D not 2D. This will ensure your readers will be unable to forget them. If they felt real, they will feel every step of their journey as if it is really happening.

Kill Your Darlings

I both love and hate this concept. Basically, it means don’t get too attached to anything you write. Sometimes you’ll write a scene that you love and think is fantastic but it does absolutely nothing whatsoever for your plot.

If it doesn’t progress the plot, if it’s not for necessary character development… say bye bye. Don’t delete it outright, put it in another file somewhere for later. You never know when something might come back into fashion, as it were!

When you’re watching a movie, look at the background. Every single thing in that shot is there for a reason. It adds to the feel of the scene, it tells a story, it hints at something to come… your book has to be the same. Every scene, every sentence, every moment must count towards something.

This can go for your whole novel, too. It can be hard to admit but you might be so attached to finishing this damned novel that you won’t give it up. Sometimes it’s better to put it aside and start again. Take another swing at the same story but in a different light, or start a whole new novel altogether. I’ve done it… and it paid off. I put aside the book I was writing and wrote Relic… which is now published.

Put Your Boxing Gloves On

It’s time to become a fighter. Being a writer is hard. You will get rejections. People will hate your work. But some people will love it and one day you will get published. I started using positive language a few years ago. I started saying when I get published, not if.

You’ll get knocked down… but you’ll get up again. Those rejections are never gonna keep you down.

It’s disheartening, I know. But you have to keep trying. This goes for distractions, too. The ‘excuses’ that stop you from sitting down to write, from finishing a novel, from even starting. I know life is complicated and we’re all busy, but if you really want it, you have to prioritize it. There will always be excuses not to do something and if those excuses always win out over your desire to write… maybe that’s a sign. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh but it might also be true. Do you really want it more than anything? Because I do. So here I am, rambling about it.

The First Impression

Your first line is like the first breath you take after being brought back to life. Your readers should feel electrified by the first sentence. They are finally waking up, finally taking their first real breath, because your story is life itself. So make it count.

Make the whole first chapter count. Don’t start with a boring opening scene or the everyday mundane (unless, of course, that is the point of your story). What I recommend is that you start your opening chapter with something that is common for your character but not boring. Don’t open with them drinking tea on the balcony. Don’t open with them waking up in the morning. That’s too normal. Be different.

Think about your character’s life. What is an every-day kind of challenge for them? Take my protagonist Kaylan, for example. She is a Blacksmith, she is relatively poor, she is the bread-winner and main parent for her family. She is strong, stubborn, a go-getter. What is an every-day problem that she could face? I didn’t want her just working at the smithy or waking up in the morning. Instead, I chose to hit the ground running – literally. Someone as poor as Kaylan would rely on being paid for services she’s provided. So what would happen if someone didn’t pay her for her work? She wouldn’t ignore that, she would go get that money and she would not play any games. So that’s how I decided to start my story – Kaylan is confronting the man who has not paid her.

Introduce your characters in their every-day, normal life… right before you tear a whole in their world. A little thing we like to call the Inciting Incident.

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