I’m not claiming that my experience and advice is in any way special or unique; but it’s real, from the heart and is how I pushed through all the barriers to achieve my dreams. So here’s 10 top tips that you hopefully find useful. I’d like to think that some of them help nudge your writing from aspiration through to inspiration.
- David J Rodger, Bristol (2011)
1: Work Hard & Prosper
Feel you need to give up your job and escape the tyranny of a relationship before you can follow your passion to write? Maybe you do but those are quite drastic actions and typically people don’t take them – leaving them living their lives with frustrated dreams. I have a full time job, an all consuming relationship and I still make time to write. I wake up most days between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and use those silent hours to be creative. I write during my lunch break at work. And I write every night between 7p.m. and 9 p.m., sticking to a golden rule of “no computer work after 9 p.m.” meaning I can actually get some time with my lady, and get some time to sleep. So on average I score between 2 to 5 hours of writing time every single day. On weekends it’s more. My writing is a job; one that I love despite there being moments when I curse the day the Muse touched my mind. If you put in the hours and never give up on your dreams – you can achieve anything.
2: Treat your work as a product
If there’s something wrong with a piece of writing, you need to know before you can launch it to the mass market. Build a small group of people who you trust to give you honest, critical feedback. Listen to their nit-picks and act on those you consider relevant, and ignore those you don’t.
3: Be consistent and persistent
Light a fire in your imagination and build up a head of steam. If you have great ideas – even small ones – write them down and follow them through. Always keep a notebook handy so you can jot ideas down – and review these jottings from time to time so you don’t less those ideas slip into the vast and sad pool of forgotten gems. Set yourself goals and stick to them. Write every day. Even if it’s just half an hour. Review your ideas regularly. Map out a plan of action for PR and marketing, then review, adjust and respond to it – and never give up. Writing a novel is hard – but getting people to part with their money to buy it is even harder. Every time you falter and allow weeks or months to slide by whilst your ideas and plans stagnate, you’re wasting the most precious resource on Earth – you.
4: Create boundaries and guard them jealously
Life outside work with all its trials and tribulations, from partners and kids, to laundry and catching up on your favourite show or seeing friends, can swell to consume your time. Create boundaries by setting aside “me time”. Slots when your first priority is to write. Enforce a lock-down during these periods… ignoring everything and everyone that tries to interrupt you. And be rude about it: they’ll soon get the message. It’s your life and your time and nobody has the right to intrude upon you working on your dreams.
5: Know where your character is “at” before you start each chapter
Answer these questions when you first create your character for the novel or story you’re writing; and then repeat the process in less detail before you start any difficult chapters.
WHO AM I?
EVERY OTHER DETAIL – EVEN STAR SIGN AND EYE COLOUR
WHERE AM I?
IN THE WORLD, IN MY LIFE?
WHAT TIME IS IT?
WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN
WHAT DO I WANT – to achieve?
WHY DO I WANT THIS?
HOW AM I GOING TO GET WHAT I WANT?
6: Accept that your first novel will likely never be published
But you still need to write it. Ever had somebody say to you, “Everyone has a novel inside of them!” Sure, but who wants to read it? Use your first novel as the training ground and a place to expunge all your personality traits; eventually, wrap the MS up in a plastic bag and stash it in a cupboard.
7: Be organised
Create a central repository for all facts about the world of your story and the people and characters in it. Give it an index that makes it easy to find particular details. Helps prevent you flicking through your MS trying to remember what colour your hero’s eyes are.
8: Be realistic about your business model
Did you forget you’re just a product? Don’t spend money unless you’re confident of a return on that investment. The best way to be certain of a return is to build up interest in your work – start small and work up from there.
9: Press Releases and Promotion
Consolidate and capitalise on success. Even minor ones. Each and every time something goes your way, you make a tiny breakthrough – or a significant one – every time you get a positive review about your work, tell the world about it. Write a little snippet on your blog – load it with SEO friendly keywords relevant to your genre, and fire it out. Most importantly, have somewhere you can stockpile all these snippets of goodness so that you can demonstrate it to punters, agents, publishers or even movie moguls taking an interest in your words and worlds.
10: Be honest and be humble
Shout about your work with pride but don’t ram it down everyone’s throat. And don’t blow out hot air with the pungent aroma of BS. Just tell it how it is. Even when things go wrong or you pick up some negative feedback, talk about it… show that you’re willing to listen and adapt your work to improve it. Your work might be a product, but your struggles to produce it creates a very human story.
About David J Rodger
David J. Rodger (Born in Newcastle Upon Tyne) is a British science fiction & fantasy author and game designer best known for his novels set in a near-future world of corporate and political intrigue. So far he has published five novels; four set in the same world: God Seed; Dante’s Fool; Iron Man Project and Edge, and one, Dog Eat Dog, set in the post-apocalyptic world of Yellow Dawn.
Yellow Dawn is a role-playing game set in the same future world as his novels, ten years after it has been devastated by a terrible mutagenic virus. Rodger’s novels often combine high-tech intrigue and political/corporate machinations with elements of the Cthulhu Mythos, as created by H.P. Lovecraft. Rodger’s contributions to the Mythos include the creation of a new Great Old One in his novel Edge, and the use of the Outer God Nyarlathotep in the novel God Seed. In Yellow Dawn Rodger’s interpretation of the Mythos, in particular the Great Old One Hastur, is a major part of the background material. Rodger has recently published Shadows of the Quantinex, a large-scale campaign expansion for the Yellow Dawn game.
Rodger has also written Cloudy Head, a children’s story illustrated by Kenn-Ole Moen, and Murder at Sharky Point, a murder mystery game. Rodger spent 8 years working for a non-departmental government agency, developing a virtual communications service within the IT Division, before moving into commercial project management for a UK media company. In 2000 Rodger’s presence on the Internet got him a place in the BBC documentary Through The Eyes of the Young, directed by Chris Terrill.
Rodger now lives in Bristol, England, with a Braun coffee-maker, writing from a house on a hill with a view of Earth’s curve. You can vist his official website at: DAVID J RODGER.COM
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