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  • Jacci Gooding

How to: Start that manuscript

If you’re a writer looking for some suggestions or tips to push you forward with your writing, the SWLF blog will be chock-full of them over the coming months.

Here are a few friendly tips to get you started.

Tip #1 - Write your first draft

Remember that the very first line of your very first paragraph of your very first chapter is really, actually, called A Draft.

Do your research then write like you haven’t. As in, make your story so natural that your readers are drawn in straight away, without any time to argue the toss or disagree with what you’ve written.

Make sure you know what you’re writing about in terms of back story, especially in historic fiction. 

Tip #2 - Be relatable

Writing science fiction? Make your new world as relatable as this old one and your readers will be there from the get-go. With time and good pacing of chapters you can unfold your new world without anyone really noticing and then bam - they’re residents of your new world without even booking a removal van.

Tip #3 - Speak naturally

Without doubt clever dialogue is the way forward. What is clever dialogue?  Is it what you hear all around, every day? Or is it well structured, over-long and completely unlikely? Do we speak now as Mr Darcy spoke then? Be brief. Be bright. Be Clever. If in doubt, chuck it out.

Tip #4 - Stay simple

Nab yourself a clever idea that will grow into your story, giving rise to a great plot.  Clever idea huh? Well excuse me while I just pop down to the clever plot shop. Simple’s always best. Make it too complicated - too many brush strokes - and you’ll lose your reader. Say for example you’re writing a cli-fi, how about the seas suddenly freezing over rather than warming up? Oh Contraire I hear you gasp.  It’s a 180 to the current crisis, so why not?

Tip #5 - What a character!

Characters always help in a story, don’t you think? Making them mad a genius or an astronaut lost in space is a bit too clever - you’d have to know a lot about geniuses or space to pull that one off effectively. Nah, go clever. Writing crime? Police procedure? Let’s have no more of the grizzled-nearly-sacked-maverick-cop with a penchant for late night whiskey, but something cleverer. A deaf detective? Could be interesting.

Tip #6 - What a cast!

Develop a good support cast. Could be a horse. Could be a kid. Could be an older gent or lady with a secret past. Make your support characters shine.

Tip #7 - Immerse yourself

Read. Read read read other authors; work out why you like what they write. Read authors you’ve never heard of in genres you’d never normally consider. Why? Because you will absorb their good stuff without even knowing it. Try not to stick to your usual preference.

Good luck with your writing!

Words: Jacci Gooding

Photos: Unsplash

Horse photo courtesy of Silje Midtgårdm

Plot photo Charles Deluvio

Book photo by Waldemar



Previously published on Jacci Gooding’s personal blog



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