What it takes to be a writer

By rah | rah | 21 Mar 2021

I have two articles still forthcoming, but it is Sunday so I thought I’d take a step back and look at something else.

About two weeks ago my debut novel was accepted for publishing – which in itself is a success – and I have been reflecting on my journey and thought I would share some of my conclusions with  you.

The amazing thing is that it was my first submission – many authors face many rejections before being accepted. That doesn’t mean that it happened overnight though. One thing that might surprise you in the detail below is that the plot was almost incidental!

BTW Please note I am saying I am on the verge of becoming a published author which isn’t necessarily the same as becoming a successful published author. Sales will measure whether I am a success or not.

Who can write?

Everybody can write. It is just a matter of hitting the keys in the right sequence and with tools like spell checker and Grammarly to support our writing it is becoming ever easier. The challenge is to get those sequences into some kind of order that makes things both readable and enticing.

I repeat that is the challenge.

For my novel – which may become a trilogy if successful – I started 5 years ago.

Creating the Characters

I created four key characters and developed them through a series of short stories and they became my friends. I got to know them almost as if they were real.

No I am not crazy, but it meant that on an intuitive level I knew exactly how each one of them would react in a given situation and as stories were developed my instincts for them became even more attuned. The characters are full and consistent.

Consequently, with the characters being so real they become relatable and with that they establish a strong emotional resonance with the reader. The protagonist is a confused person who does some terrible things, but somehow her humanity shines through and because she is flawed the reader wants things to work out in the end.

Developing My Style.

Improving My Writing

I had to take a long hard look at what I write and how I write it. I have been writing since my teens and my earliest internet published piece first appeared online in about 2004 (an updated version of it even exists on here). I was pretty good at getting my writing to flow apart from when using direct speech. It always surprised me how published authors have made dialogue flow without endless usage of said / told / asked and so I used the short stories to develop this skill.

And in the process I learned that there is nothing wrong with said / told / asked

Narrative Style

Find your Voice

This is so important and it is probably the main reason I struggled to complete anything for a long time. The novel needs a voice and I had tried and failed so many times with the third person narrative (he / she / it / they) and abandoned it myself because I just didn’t like the feel of it. It felt clunky and awkward and then when I started work on my four superstars I realised that because I know them I can transform my writing style to the first person (I / we) and that really unlocked something. The protagonist is able to explain experiences and situations personally and not only that but it unlocked her inner voice, her inner musings, doubts and fears as well as her exhilaration and joy as circumstances unfolded according to my plot.

I love the first person narrative!

Keep it Simple

It is unnecessary to over-describe every detail. If you are describing a kitchen you are generating an image in the mind of every reader that ever picks up your book. Each reader shapes the same kitchen with a blend of their own imagination and even memories. One of my favourite authors bases a part of one of his stories on a farm, but he doesn’t over-describe and so I visualise it as my grandparents’ farm that I often visited as a child. Too much detail creates clutter and white noise.

Keep the plotline coherent. My novel came about as a result of one simple thought

Now there is something you didn’t expect – I was creating the characters without a specific novel in mind and then it just evolved. I originally created the characters to develop my skills and explore some themes I am interested in

My simple thought was a what if scenario and because I already knew the characters, it was easy to write because everything was already in place. I did however have to create a new character who has now followed a similar trajectory as the other four – although I don’t know her as well yet!

Pace and Interest

Keep it moving along and don’t get bogged down in tangents. Every word needs to be there for a reason. Keeping it simple doesn’t mean that there can’t be any twists and turns or even longer moments of reflection which can be used to establish an even stronger rapport between reader and protagonist. I wrote once, in an earlier article that a good story should engage the emotions, build anticipation and stimulate the imagination.

Review,  Redraft, Revise, and Finally Stop

You should be diligent for consistency’s sake. Some authors actually use physical representations to ensure they don’t make mistakes. If a character is in the kitchen one moment don’t accidentally have her arriving home mid-scene because you forgot where she was!

This is also the time to fix any grammar and rework sentences. Make sure your Subject + Verb forms are clear and you know at all times who is doing what. Don’t overwork pronouns to the point of such confusion.

You are not perfect and your work can always be improved but it gets to the point where you just have to accept what you have produced and go for it.

I did and was accepted on my first attempt.

One other thing that I have done is to chose a niche genre that I have never read and so as a result my approach should be fresh and new to both the publisher and reader.

And finally I hope it will be in bookstores by late summer once production and design have finished with it.

As always stay safe and stay well!

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I love reading and technology as well as history. I teach English and Business to professional clients as well as soft skills with a focus on communications. I am a big fan of both Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln City Football clubs


Experienced Business Owner and Coach and Tutor who now trades in Crypto. It is proving to be an interesting journey with so much technical language involved. Follow me as I learn the trade (and how to trade). Made some howling mistakes to begin with, but still learning and will share what I learn as I learn it for the benefit of the community. - RAH

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