Writing Tips

I'm an avid reader and English teacher, and know plenty about the mechanics of English, but the process of plotting, writing, editing, and publishing my own stories has taught me a whole lot more.

This page is designed to share what I've learned along the way.

Where does your action really start? Most new authors could afford to delete the first three chapters.

TIP: Delete the first 3 chapters.

This issue didn't arise with my first book (Alfie Knight and the Geek Legends), as chapter 1 jumped straight into the action. Quest was different. Written for an older audience, the plot, characters, and world-building were much more complex, however I was concerned there was way too much going on before the action started - which was necessary, right? I mean, I had a lot of background to get across to the reader. Wrong! And beta readers had pointed it out, but I didn't know how to fix the problem.

I was reading (and still do) countless articles on writing advice and came across this gem: delete the first 3 chapters. I checked my manuscript. Yikes, they were right. My actual story started at chapter 4. Quivery bottom lip. I loved the story I'd built up in those chapters...all that character building, and there were some seriously well-crafted and fabulous lines in there, though I say so myself.

But I did it. I deleted those first 3 chapters, though that's not to say I got rid of everything. There was important stuff in there I needed to tell the reader, so I combed through the text, extracted the relevant bits, and wove them into later chapters.

I now teach this technique to my students...so often they waffle on with a long introduction, then run out of time or word count to meet the essay criteria they have been set (or it's downright boring). Not good in exams. So we practice starting stories right at the 'action'.

'They gasp a lot, too.'

TIP: Overused words.

It was my former university room mate, editor, and cozy-mystery and middle-grade author, Kari Lee Townsend, who first alerted me to the concept of overused words. She was editing an early version of 'Alfie Knight and the Geek Legends' and commented, 'They gasp a lot too.' - an observation that still has me giggling (though not when I did a search for the word gasp. She was right!).

With the help of Pinterest articles and my own eagle-eyed editing, I have since developed a list of common - and my own - overused and unnecessary words, which I always check for...and some surprised me, such as was and that.

TIP: Beta Readers

Although a few friends and family have beta-read for me, I have found some truly fabulous beta readers through Goodreads. Admittedly, it has been a risky and bumpy ride. Once, during my sabbatical, when I was gung-ho about getting my MS finished, I sent my work off to five betas. They had all offered to read (all or part of) my story but I only heard back from one.

So thank goodness for Alyssa, Ashleigh, Brittany, Cris, Daniela, Nicole, Pandora and Shaloa (from the UK, South Africa, and the USA), who all offered unique advice and opinions and helped shape the final book. I'm hoping they'll be there for me in book 2, also!

TIP: Pinterest...search 'writing tips'

Can't tell you how many top tips I've found and applied to my writing.