Stephen King’s Twenty Rules of Writing

Before we get into this week’s blog, I’d like to acknowledge that people all across the United States (and the world) are transforming their grief into action following the death of George Floyd. For those who are interested, I’ve curated a short list of articles, websites, and podcasts that can help you sifted through the flood of information that is coming out right now.

Anti-racism Resources from Australia and Beyond

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

whenwestandtogether.com

Writing class with Alexandra Franzen: How to Inspire People to Listen, Care, Take Action, and Change the World (honour system donation)

1619 Podcast by The New York Times 

About Race Podcast

George Floyd Memorial Fund

 

I understand that I will never understand.
However, I stand. 

There’s no smooth way to transition into this week’s blog and vlog, I can only hope that my 1000 word post and 10 minute video provide a brief moment of relief during these tense, angry, and grievous times. 


If you’ve been following along these past few week’s then you already know that I am doing a series all about writing rules. I started off this series with Octavia Butler’s nine rules of writing, followed by Natalie Goldberg’s seven rules of writing, and last week I unpacked Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules of fiction writing.

I do want to preface this post by saying that there aren’t any real rules for writing other than the ones you decided on for yourself. I’m making this series as a means of inspiration and education so that you can take the advice that appeals to you, and leaving the rest.

Stephen King
This week I am covering Stephen King’s TWENTY rules of writing. Don’t worry, I’ve split this blog into two posts, and today’s I am covering the first ten rules.

I’ve been beginning each of these posts with a brief author bio,  but I’m pretty sure you know who Stephen King is, so let’s jump straight into the rules.

The following blog outlines the first ten rules of SK’s twenty rules of writing (geared specifically towards fiction writing), followed by my own interpretation of each rule.

Rule #1: First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience 

This rule echoes a point I made in last week’s post: write the story you want to read.

King argues that your first draft should be written for yourself.

What he means by that is not only are you writing the story you want to write, but that you also allow the story to take you wherever it wants to go.

Don’t put on your editors hat until you start your second draft, this is where you can take out all the stuff that doesn’t need to be there.

Rule #2: Don’t use passive voice

Passive voice is when you turn the object of an action into the subject of a sentence.

For example, saying “Mandy hugged Clara” is active while “Clara was hugged by Mandy” is passive. Can you see the difference? Mandy’s action – giving a hug – is diminished when using passive voice.

Writing is revising.
Remove adverbs and change passive voice into active voice when editing your work.

Rule #3: Avoid adverbs

King has become famous for this rule, yet he openly acknowledges that of course he too uses adverbs.

You’ll note that the rule is avoid adverbs, not ignore them.

Adverbs can be a sign of lazy writing, but if you do the work up front you often won’t need to added these additional descriptors.

Think about it, if two characters are fighting and one leaves the room in a huff, you show the reader that the character’s are angry through their dialogue and actions, that way you DON’T have to relay on statements like, “he slammed the door, forcefully” because the reader already knows that the character is angry.

Rule #4 Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said”

Again, note that this rule is to avoid adverbs following “he said” and “she said.” Sometimes it is okay to say “he said, softly” or “she said, loudly”, but most of the time, a simple he or she said is all that is necessary.

laptop-3087585_1280
Don’t stress about perfect punctuation or grammar while drafting.

Rule #5. Don’t obsess over perfect grammar

As a writer, I believe that you do need to know the tools of your trade, but I can also appreciate that if you didn’t learn grammar in school, or if you were taught incorrectly, or simply weren’t paying attention, then learning these rules as an adult can be startling difficult.

It is important to learn the rules of grammar so that you can properly edit your own work and so that when you do break the rules, you do so intentionally.

That being said, your primary motivation for writing should always be to tell a good story.

Bad grammar may put a reader off a book, but nobody ever finished a book and said, “Wow, that author knows what a semicolon is and how to use it!”

Rule #6. The magic is in you

This rule speaks specifically to the fear of writing, King believe that most bad writing is rooted in fear and he advises aspiring writer to be bold and fearfulness in their storytelling.

You’ll notice that this rule echoes Natalie Goldberg’s rule of Loosen up.

Writing is a vulnerable act, but it would suck to get to the end of your life and to think that you never got to bring forth all of the treasures deep inside you because you were afraid. 

Read more
The more you read, the more your writing will improve.

Rule #7. Read, read, read

Interestingly, this did not appear on either Vonnegut’s or Goldberg’s list, but reading is essential to writing regardless of genre or form.

Unlike film or theatre, there are no secret stings being pulled behind the covers of a novel.

Everything you need to know about how to write a novel is right there on the page. If you want to see the strings, all you got to do is slow down and look for them.

Rule #8. Don’t worry about making other people happy

We’re all leading busy lives and few people can make writing their full-time gig. So, sometimes, you have to say no to opportunities, invitations, or events because you need to make time for your writing.

This will upset people, but that’s okay.

If you’ve made the decision that you’re going to write a book, then you need to honour that commitment and follow through until completion.

Sometimes, you have to say, “no, thank you” to a momentary pleasure in order to say “yes!” to a lifelong dream.

Turn off the TV and read instead
Only watch EXCESSIVE amounts of TV if you want to be a screen writer. If not, PICK UP A BOOK!

Rule #9. Turn off the TV 

Okay, I rarely watch TV, but because of the recent lockdown I started watching some TV (and movies) as a way to spend time with loved ones.

And I’ll tell you what, I haven’t been missing out on much.

Binge watching Netflix is a time suck and it will not support your dream of becoming a writer.

If you want to write for film and TV then that’s another story, but if you want to be a novelist then the time spent watching TV would be better spent either reading or writing.

Rule #10. You have three months

King believes that it should take three months to write the first draft of a novel.

This rule is a bit prescriptive, and yes, King has written a lot of novels (70+), experienced a wild level of success, and won many awards, but that’s because he figured out a process that works for him.

What we can take away from this rule is the idea of deadlines.

Creating a self-imposed deadline for your first draft is a great way to keep yourself on track and to create a sense of accountability, especially if you buddy up with another writing pal.

Which of these writing rules speak to you? What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received? Leave a comment below and let me know! Next week, I will be unpacking rules 11-20 of Stephen King’s twenty rules of writing, so be sure to join my email list so you don’t miss out!


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Natalie Goldberg’s Seven Rules of Writing

Recently, I was checking the analytics on my YouTube Channel and noticed that a short video I posted over a year ago called Heinlein’s Five Rules for Writing was the most watched video on my channel.

So, I took the hint and for the next four weeks I am going to be covering the ‘writing rules’ of four famous authors. Last week, I discussed Octavia Butler and her Nine Rules of Writing and this week I’m unpacking Natalie Goldberg’s Seven Rules of Writing which appeared in her craft book Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.

Before we dive into today’s video, I want to acknowledge that for many of us, writing may not be the biggest priority right now. We’re all dealing with a slew of other concerns as we’ve had to adjust to working from home, changes in our financial situations, and the general restrictions we’ve been adhering to as part of the pandemic.

In many places, these restrictions are starting to lift and while it may be some time until things get back to normal, I wanted to put this series together as a way to inspire and support you during this time.

Natalie Goldberg is an American author of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, but she is most Natalie Goldbergfamous of her books that explore writing as Zen practise.

While many craft based book focus on the nuts and bolts of writing – character, dialogue, plot, theme – Goldberg’s book focus on the emotional rewards of writing, as well as how to develop a writing practise. Goldberg’s methodology is skewed towards journal writing, but the advice presented in her books can easily be applied to all forms, whether it be fiction, poetry, or memoir.

The following quote sums up Goldberg’s writing philosophy perfectly:

“I don’t think everyone wants to create the great American novel, but we all have a dream of telling our stories-of realizing what we think, feel, and see before we die. Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate.”

Now, I do want to preface this blog by saying that there aren’t any real rules for writing other than the ones you decided for yourself. I’m making this series as a means of inspiration and education so that you can take the advice that appeals to you, and leaving the rest.

So, let’s get to it.

Rule #1: Keep your hand moving

This is perhaps Goldberg’s most famous rule. Keep your hand moving is a challenge to your will power and determination. It is also the best way to separate the editor from the creator. By keeping your hand moving, you are less likely to stop, ruminate over what you wrote, and give into the false temptation of perfectionism. It is easy to waste an hour of writing time fiddling with a paragraph or a single sentence.

There is a time for revising, and an hour spent polishing a paragraph is an hour well spent when you are in the revising stage of your novel. However, you do not need to be wearing your editing hat if you are creating a first draft, if you are new to writing, or if you are simply trying to make writing a habit.

Writing wins when you keeping your hand moving.

Rule #2: Lose Control

We self-censor our work all the time. Why? Because writing is a vulnerable act. If you are writing memoir, this is doubly so because you are sharing personal details and stories from your own lived experience.

Writing fiction is its own sticky net. Sometimes people mistakenly think that our work is memoir in fancy dress and that our characters are mouth-pieces for our own thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes, writing fiction is shameful because we fear that what we have written isn’t very good.

There are so many ways that we judge our work and censor ourselves during creating practise.

We cringe at the idea of our grandmother reading the sex scene in chapter seven, or that our friends will assume that’s what we’re in too!

When you are writing a first draft, or when you are writing for practise (exercises, journaling), it’s important that you loosen up. No one is going to read your work and judge you unless you let them.

Let the words be ripped out of you, raw, and covered in gore.

If you want to write something that feels alive, then you need to write honestly, without censorship.

Losing control in your writing can be a good thing.
Losing control in your writing can be a good thing.

Rule #3: Be specific

This rule relates to writing craft on the line level. It is the details that transform words on a page into images in the reader’s mind. So, when you’re writing, it’s important that you pay attention to the nouns, verbs, colours, and texture, that create your descriptions.

Not every sentence has to be filled with original prose and breath taking beauty – some sentences are just there to move the story forward – but if you’re practising the art of ‘keeping your hand moving’ and notice that one sentence seem a bit … vanilla … push yourself to be more specific in the next sentence.

Focussing on sensory details or embedding imaginative metaphors and similes are just some of the ways you can become more specific in your descriptions.

Rule #4: Don’t think

If you’re keeping your hand moving, then there really isn’t that much time to think anyway, but Goldberg makes a strong argument for following your “first thought” when writing.

For Goldberg, this rule, specifically, is tied to her Zen practise: by following her first thought, she supports rules two and three, because she is forced to stay in the present moment. By staying present, she is better able to avoid self-censorship, keep her inner editor at bay, and to really let loose with her writing.

Personally, I believe that “don’t think” is a good practise for writers like myself who need to get down a crappy first draft before they can move forward.

The ideas that appear in a first draft won’t be the best, but by getting down the bones of the story we can begin the slow process of building that skeleton up into a completed book.

Don't think about what to write
If you think too long about what to write next, you’ll freeze and write nothing!

Rule #5: Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar

This is another way to stay present with the work in the moment. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are duties that belong to the editor and your editor does not need to be in the room while you are drafting or journaling or brainstorming.

The editor operates out of the left side of brain. She is analytical, literal, and thinks linearly. Exploratory writing needs the qualities of the right side, creative, imaginative, non-linear.

Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are important, but they are not the building blocks you need to concern yourself with if you are drafting or simply trying to developing a writing habit.

Rule #6: You are free to write the worst junk in the world

You don’t have to publish it, but you’re free to write it.

The more you write, the bigger your body of work will become. The more you write, the better your writing will become.

But, of course, not everything you write will be good, even if your writing as a whole improves. Stephen King has written 70+ books and The Tommyknockers is definitely not of the same calibre as The Shinning, The Stand, It, 11/22/63 … you get the picture.

Write bad stuff, write good stuff, just write. 

Be bold and brave in your writing
Go for the jugular. Be brave and bold in your writing!

Rule #7: Go for the jugular

If something uncomfortable, controversial, painful, wild, or surprising pops up while you’re writing, don’t stop! Keep your hand moving, continue with the thought and write it all out. As Hemingway said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Remember, you don’t have to publish what you’ve written and you can always edit your work later, but it’s important that you give yourself permission for the writing to be messy, undulating, and alive.

You may end your writing session, look back on your work and see nothing but chaos, but as long as there is a beating heart nestled within that story, then you have done your job and it’s up to your inner-editor to plug that heart into the body of your story.


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Octavia Butler’s Nine Rules for Writing

Recently, I was checking the analytics on my YouTube Channel and noticed that a short video I posted over a year ago called Heinlein’s Five Rules for Writing was the most watched video on my channel.

So, I took the hint and for the next five week’s I am going to be covering the ‘writing rules’ of four famous authors: Octavia Butler, Natalie Goldberg, Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King: who’s rules I have broken up into two parts.

In today’s blog, I am breaking down Octavia Butler’s Nine Rules for Writing. If you’re not super familiar with Octavia Butler or her work, here’s the highlights.

Octavia ButlerOctavia Butler was an African American Science Fiction writer whose 1979 novel, Kindred, cemented her position in the literary cannon. She was one of the first female authors, and one of the first African American authors, to break into the predominately white, male-dominated world of science fiction. She is most well known for her Parable Series, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talent. Unfortunately, Butler passed before she was able to finish the final novel in the trilogy, Parable of the Trickster.

Prior to becoming a full-time author, Butler worked a string of menial jobs where she would get up at 2 am and write until she had to go to work. Once she became a full-time author, she’d divide her days between writing and reading. Luckily for us, Butler kept a journal where she documented her life and feelings, yes, but also her writing process. Her journals and research notebook were donated to The Huntington Library two years after Butler’s death in 2006.

One of my favourite entries written before Butler became a full-time published author reads: “I shall be a bestselling writer. I will find the way to do this. So be it! See to it.”

As African-American woman in the 1970s, Butler had to overcome many obstacles in order to achieve that dream. It took create determination, discipline, and of course, good storytelling.

Butler’s nine rules for writers were published in an essay titled Furor Scibendi. As Butler describes in her own words, “Writing for publication may be both the easiest and the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Learning the rules — if they can be called rules — is the easy part.”

In this video, I will list Butler’s nine rule of writing followed by my own interpretation of each rule.


Rule #1: Read

As you can imagine, Butler was an avid reader. She pushed herself to read from a wide variety of materials including fiction and non-fiction.

She read bad books and good books, and books she wished to emulate. She even educated herself on the art, craft and business of writing by reading text in each of these fields.

If you want to be a writer, then you must first be a reader.

You do not have to like reading, but you should do it anyway.

If you are time poor or have a short attention, then audiobooks are your friend! You can listen to them when commuting, exercising, or while you complete mindless tasks like cooking or cleaning.

Rule#2: Take classes and go to writers’ workshops 

We all learnt how to read and write in primary school, but writing is called a craft for a reason. You may know how to kick a football or how to upload a video on YouTube, but that doesn’t make you a sports superstar or a tech genius.

Signing up for writing class and workshops is the best way to develop your skill as a writer as you will receive feedback on both the quality of your writing on a sentence level as well as what is working in your story and what is not.

It is vital that you get feedback from people outside of your family and friends.

You can still question the feedback given to you by strangers, but the critiques delivered in writing workshops are often more trustworthy because they aren’t tainted by obligation or affection.

Writing Wokrshops
Writing workshops are a great way to get feedback on your work and to develop your craft.

Rule #3: Write

Butler recommends that you write every day for as long as possible, and for a long time I agreed with this prescriptive advice.

But the truth is, there is no one way to write.

Some people work best when their hands are touching their story every single day and others work better by ‘binge writing.’

You have to write to be a writer, what that process looks like is totally up to you. 

If you’re an established writer, then chances are you know what works best for you. And at a guess, I’d say your two biggest hurdles would be 1) your own personal resistance and 2) the need to protect your writing time from other outside sources.

If you’re new or newish to writing, then I suggest you experiment with a wide variety of routines and methods. Mess around with different times of day, different genres, writing styles, different locations; write with an outline, write without an outline, write listening to music and in total silence. Figure out what you need in order to get order on the page and then make sure you get it.

Personally, and Butler agrees with me here, I recommend that you keep a journal.

Writing in a journal is a great way to reflect on your creative practise, to interrogate your work, to become an observer of your own life, thoughts, and feeling, and to respond to what you see happening in the world around you.

It’s a place for you to figure out what you really think, which is an invaluable thing to know if you want to write about politics, social justice issues, human relationships, desire, depression – whatever.

Rule #4: Revise your writing until it’s as good as you can make it

Okay, guys, your first draft is not your last draft.

You must revise your writing.

Fortunately, all that time spent reading, writing, and attending classes, and workshops will help you do this. Look for plot holes and consistency with your characters and point of view; proofread for typos; revise your work until it is as good as you can make it.

Now, Butler does not talk about beta readers in her rules, but I recommend that you reach out to other readers and writers whose opinions you trust and ask them to critique your work.

Once you’ve read through their feedback and applied whatever changes you agree with, give your manuscript a final once over, and if you are traditionally publishing, make sure your manuscript follows the publisher’s formatting guidelines.

Revising your manuscript
Your first draft is not your last draft. You must edit your writing.

Rule #5: Submit your work for publication 

If you want to traditionally publish your work, then Butler urges you to research the various markets that interest you.

Become familiar with the books or magazines of publishers that you want to sell your work too. Once you’ve decided on a publisher, the only thing left to do is submit.

Yes, submitting your work can be scary, but it’s important that you be brave and hit the send button anyway.

If your story is rejected, that’s okay, find another publisher and send it out again.

Continue this process until you get a ‘yes!’

Reject is a part of life as a writer, so it’s important that you a) get used to it and b) develop ways to cope with it.

Now, Butler doesn’t address self-publishing, specifically because she published her rules at a time when self-publishing was crazy expensive, not very common, and frankly, looked down on.

Fortunately, things have changed and Indie publishing is a totally viable and potentially lucrative option for many authors. Much like traditionally publishing, if you want to go the indie route then you must do your research.

Rule #6: Forget inspiration

Inspiration is fickle, habit is more dependable.

Developing a discipline around writing by committing to a certain number of hours, sessions, or words a week is what will carry you over the finish line long after inspiration has fallen out of the race.

You may not have made writing a habit yet, but there are so many tricks you can use to create habits that stick. One of my favourite writers on this topic is Gretchen Rubin.

Inspired to write
You have all the inspiration you need to write the novel of your heart. Inspiration is great, but habit is more dependable.

Rule #7: Forget talent

Talent is no good to you if you don’t first have the habit of writing. If you are a naturally talented writer great, but if you’re not don’t sweat it. Writing can be taught (insert obvious disclaimer). Good writing comes from learning the craft, practising with intent, and editing your work until it sings.

As Butler says, “Never let pride or laziness prevent you from learning, improving your work, and changing its direction when necessary.”

Rule #8: Don’t worry about imagination

One of the most common questions an author gets is, “where do you get your ideas?”

And of course, the answer is everywhere.

Books, writing, learning, and living a reflective life will keeps the flames of your creativity stoked. You have all the imagination you need to create stories that make people feel something, to see the world in a different way, to be entertained and educated.

Remember that writing is fun; play with your story, the words that you use, the storylines you create.

Nothing is too silly and if it is, you can always edit it later.

Rule #9: Persist

This is perhaps the most important rule as this character trait underlines every aspect of being a writer.

You must persist.

You must continue to develop your craft, ask hard questions of your work, read when you don’t feel like reading, write when you don’t feel like writing, ignore reject letters and continue on submitting anyway.

The only difference between an aspiring writer and a published one is persistence.


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The Five BIG Lessons I Wish I’d Known Before Writing My Novel

(Click here to watch the video version of this week’s blog).

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, it took seven years to write and then publish Every Time He Dies. 

That’s a long time to stick with one project, and the manuscript changed many times as a result.  

The great thing about sticking with a project for a long period of time is that you learn many, many, lessons. For today’s blog, I’m going to unpack the five big lessons I wish I’d known before writing my novel, Every Time He Dies. Hopefully, these lessons will be useful to you as you continue along your own path to publication. 

1 / Have Patience

Like I said at the top of this blog, it takes a long time to write a book. You have to be patient with yourself and the project. Of course, it doesn’t have to take a long time to write a book, like the Book Writing Police won’t be banging on your door, fine in hand, if you write and publish a book in three weeks. But this is my blog, so I’m talking about my experience, and ETHD took a long time. There were so many times when I thought I was pulling the train into the station only to discover that some nasty so-so had extended the tracks. 

If I knew on day one that it would be seven years until my novel was published … well … this book may not exist. Huh? Who am I kidding, I still would have written it. I’m a writer, after all, so what else could I do? Watch Netflix? Pft. 

You will hit blocks.

You will suddenly realise there is a massive plot hole and you don’t know how to fix it.

You will worry that maybe this manuscript is unsalvageable and maybe you should start working on something else, but please (!), do not be quick to throw away a manuscript! 

Let things simmer. Consider how the story could be saved, restructured or overhauled.

Chances are, if you roll up your sleeves and get to work on fixing your broken down bicycle of a book, you’ll wind up with a manuscript that becomes the envy of every kid in the neighbourhood. 

2 / Resistance is greatest at the end

I never got sick of my book. Okay, look, I never got sick of my story, but I definitely got sick of proofreading and checking meticulous details such as formatting. Weirdly enough, I often had to remind myself to pay attention to the language and grammar of each sentence while I was proofreading (alongside five other readers I had enlisted), because I kept getting caught up in the story — the story I had written!

Working on ETHD was mostly a joy. However, I technically could have published this novel two years ago. So, why didn’t I? 

Well, there’s a bunch of logistical and practical reasons, but basically, it boiled down to two factors:

  1. Money
  2. Time

I could have published the book two years ago, it was good enough, but I wanted the book to be great and I wanted to be fully prepared myself.

I needed to know more about the industry, more about self-publishing, I wanted to add a bit more description, to enlist another round of beta-readers, to save a bit more cash etc. etc. Basically, I wanted the book and the book launch to be as successful as possible. 

Perfectionism is a bitch. 

This resistance to publishing my novel really boiled down to one factor: fear. 

I wanted reassurance that I was making good decisions. Is now the best time to publish? Is the book ready? Am I ready? Do I know what I’m doing? (Pst! You never know what you are doing).

Now, to be honest, the book has benefited from this two-year delay. Those extra two years gave me the time I needed to polish the manuscript to the best of my abilities, to hire the professionals I wanted to work with and to have a solid understanding of how to publish, marketing and promoting the book. 

So, it was worth it. However, perfectionism can easily turn into procrastination. Don’t let your manuscript become mouldy in the bottom drawer. Fix it up, pay a bunch of professionals to help you, and get that baby out there!

3 / Don’t do it by yourself

Don’t do it by yourself because you can’t do it by yourself. It takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village to publish a book.

Personally, I love reading the acknowledgement page at the back of a book (this isn’t always featured in fiction books but it’s becoming more common). While the author’s name may appear on the cover, I love learning about the many hands that were involved in the writing, revising, publishing and distributing of that text. 

My novel was shaped indirectly by the advice and guidance of my creative writing lecturers as they taught me how to write, and it was also directly shaped by their feedback on early drafts. The critique I receive from classmates and later, beta-reader, provided much needed direction as they identified the weaknesses that I couldn’t.

The markups I got from friends and family (ie: non-writers) told me what the ‘average’ reader would think of my story. Mentorships with professional editors and later, hiring professional editors showed me how to add body to my skeletal draft and how the story could have a totally different — and better — shape. 

Somewhere along the way, an early reader said, “You’re a great writer, but your ideas need a bit of work.” Now, I would have been offended had it not been the truth.

I am a good writer, but sometimes I need the input of others to lift my work to the next level. 

The thing is, our life experiences and perspectives are limited. When we share our art with (trusted) others and invite their feedback, we get the rare opportunity to see our work through another person’s eyes. Then, we can see where the story is weak and we can get to the business of fixing it. 

4 / It’s okay for the story to change

The version of Every Time He Dies that I am publishing is TOTALLY different from the book I set out to write seven years ago. 

The thing is, I am a fast writer and a slow reviser. I wrote the first draft of this book in a matter of months. I then spent years considering how the story could be different. What could I do to make it stronger, better?

It took a while to figure out whose story it really was, what voice I wanted to use, the perspective it should be told in, the mood and so much more. 

The novel’s premise changed dramatically twice.

First, it changed from a novel about two teenage boys to a novel about an adult woman and a ghost. Then it changed again from a novel about a group of strangers coming together to create a community to a novel about disintegrated families, told through a dual perspective of a father and his daughter — don’t worry, I kept the ghost. 🙂

The first time the premise changed, I was excited. The second time, I was exhausted. Probably because I knew how much work would go into changing the story. However, the story is so much better now.

Hard work is hard, but the results are so much more pleasing. So, don’t be afraid to make big, dramatic changes!

5 / Seeing your book for the first time

Okay. So, I totally squealed the first time I saw the digital file that showed the front, spine and back cover. Finally, I got to see what my book was actually going to look like!

Maybe it’s because we live in such a visually orientated world, but for so long I’d been living with the vision of Daff, Lawrence and Liam’s story inside my head in the same way that we can recall memories or scenes from a movie.

For the first time, I was now seeing an exterior, visual symbol of the book I had spent so long writing. Hell, even viewing the files for the interior format design was exciting! Now, I could see the layout my pages were going to have, how the chapter titles were going to be presented, what the book itself was going to look like. 

Now, this euphoria was doubled the first time I held a physical copy.

So much of our life occurs in the digital space, so sometimes we forget how amazing tactical products or experiences can be. I could see how big my book was, and rather than looking at my words on the screen, I could now touch them with my fingers. I could sign the flyleaf and easily pop the book in my bag. My story was now mobile! Hmmm I mean, digital versions are mobile too, but you’d be WAY more upset if you left your i-reader or kindle at the bus stop!

It’s taken a lot of time, money and energy to get to this point, but I have to say that it was totally worth it.

I had to write Every Time He Dies and now I’m ready to release it.

It’s time for the novel to go off and have its own experience in the world away from my meddling grasp! While my work on the novel is completed, your experience of this story is just beginning, and I can’t wait to hear all about it. 


EVERY TIME HE DIES

AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER + GIVEAWAY

‘Who knew that a book about murder, grief and disintegrated families could be so funny?’ – Paul WilliamsEverytimeHeDies_3D

‘A unique modern mystery that is one part psychic practices and one part police procedural. The fast pace, dynamic characters and intricate plot will keep readers hooked until the end.’ – Gregory James

‘It’s rare to find an Australian-set book of this scope and genre that could stand among its international peers and hold its own, but I won’t be surprised to see this book find its success in all corners of the crime genre reading world.’ – Shayla Morgansen

‘Can someone please make this into a TV series? This is a fabulous read and I want to see Liam and Daff on the small screen.’ – Carol Seeley


CLICK BELOW TO PREORDER NOW

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PREORDER GIVEAWAY!

Everyone who preorders a copy of Every Time He Dies (paperback or ebook) will go into the draw to win one of THREE MAJOR GRAND PRIZES.

To celebrate the release of Every Time He Dies, I’m running an EPIC book giveaway. The three grand prize packs include signed copies of:

🎉Dying in the First Person by Nike Sulway
🎉Bordertown by Gregory James
🎉Haunted by Shayla Morgansen
🎉The Spark Ignites by Kathleen Kelly
🎉Every Time He Dies by Tara Louise East

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If you preorder a copy, simply take a snapshot of your proof of purchase and fill out the entry form here. 

WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

Everyone who preorders a copy will ALSO receive the first five chapters straight to their inboxNot only will this tide you over until the book arrives, but it’s also my way of saying thanks!

How Do You Know When A Project Is Finished?

One could argue that creative projects are never really done. Like any skill, our creative processes and practices improve over time. You are a better writer today than you were yesterday, and you’re definitely a better writer now than you were three years ago. Because our skills are constantly improving, it can be difficult to recognise when a creative project is finished.

You may finish revising chapter twenty-six and decided on a whim to look back at chapter three. Then your heart sinks. The chapter is crap. Well, maybe not crap, but you know that you can do better. You know that you can lift chapter three to the level of chapter twenty-six. One of the trickiest things about writing a novel is learning how to maintain a consistent voice across three-hundred-plus pages while your technical abilities as a writer constantly improve.

The desire to constantly tweak, lift and better your work never goes away.

If you love words, if you believe in the power of storytelling, and if you respect the craft of writing, then chances are you will have very high expectations when drafting your own novel.

Dani Shapiro once said that it would be an insightful experiment to have an author re-write the same book every ten years because it wouldn’t be the same book. An additional decade of life experience and craft development would ultimately result in a book that may have a similar premise to the earlier edition, but the quality and content of the updated copy would be entirely different.

So, how do you know when a novel or project is finished? Below are a few signposts that may indicate when a creative work has resolved itself.

You’re Kind of Over It

Resentment and boredom are good indicators that the cake is baked. If your eyes glaze over while revising chapter three—again—or if you feel irritated, frustrated or angry every time you sit down for another writing session … perhaps it’s time to hit the pause button and do some evaluating.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I having a bad week or am I truly done with this project?
  • What would it feel like to ‘hit publish’?
    (This could mean publishing a blog, sending a manuscript to an agent or publishing house or submitting a pitch or article to a magazine)
  • Am I done or am I quitting?
    (Remember: quitting feels great in the short terms, but lousy in the long term)
  • Can someone (other than Mum) read my work and provide some feedback?
  • Have I given this project all that I have?
  • Am I still in love with this project?
  • Does working on this project make me feel excited or drained?
  • If I were still working on this project in a month’s time, would I be okay with that?

The answer to these questions may help you decide whether this project requires more time or if it’s actually “complete.”

Pushing vs Perfectionism

Pushing yourself and perfectionism are similar, yet there is a subtle difference.

When we challenge ourselves, we are extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone. We are awake and alert. We feel focussed and excited. The obstacle course we find ourselves on may be tough, but we know that we are capable of finishing it. Even if we’ve never done anything like this before, we know that it’s possible to leap over hurdles, weave between obstructions and cross the finish line!

Here’s the difference: pushing has an endpoint; perfectionism doesn’t.

An obstacle course of this vain doesn’t have a finish line. Instead, the course is a loop that you climb, jump and run through, over and over again until your feet give out and you vomit from dizziness.

Are you challenging yourself to make your novel (or any work of art) the best that it can be or are you reaching for an ideal? Because, dear friend, there is no there, there.

There is no such thing as a perfect novel.

Don’t believe me, let’s consult some experts.

“Near enough is good enough.” Elizabeth Gilbert.

“The novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.” Randall Jarrell.

Deviation from Original Concept

Another indicated that it may be time to wrap things up is if the project is starting to deviate from the original concept. If you continue to work on, develop and revise your novel for too long, there is a very good chance that it will move away from your initial intentions. It’s good to push yourself and to allow projects to develop and change over time, but you also need to recognise when your constant need to tinker with the work has morphed into unproductive meddling.

There is a difference between tweaking a story in order to strengthen/improve it and changing a story so much that it is unrecognisable. Embedding new ideas, cutting out and adding characters, deleting scenes and writing new ones are part of the creative process but are you doing these things in order to excavate the story buried deep inside your soul, or are you simply fucking around?

Do not ignore the voice of your subconscious in favour of what you think the story should be about.

Finish the story you set out to write and reserve any sparkly new ideas for future projects.

Books are never really done. A writer could spend their entire life trying to making a manuscript match the ideal version they envisage in their mind. At the end of the day, you have two options. You can spend years/decades/a lifetime tweaking and ‘perfecting’ a single manuscript or you can do the work, make it presentable, hit publish and move on to the next project.

The choice is yours, so choose wisely.


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