Eric Brown, the author of several Solaris Books including the Bengal Station series, has been kind enough to send us his top ten tips for aspiring writers:-
1. Write. Write as often as possible. Write even if you think you haven't an idea in your head. Write until the subconscious kicks in and ideas and words begin to flow. Remember, fiction is modular. You can always go back and lift out entire sections, rewrite them and put them back, improved.
2. Trust in the subconscious. Beginning writers are beset by fear. I was. I overcame the fear - i.e., the doubt that I had anything to say, the tools to say anything - by writing and writing and trusting in the subconscious. Write long enough and the old SC kicks in. Try it.
3. Read. Read everything. Read what you like to read, and what you don't like to read. Admire and attempt to emulate what you like to read. Despise and shy away from what you don't like. Work out how certain effects are achieved, and learn from good effects.
4. Write what you know about. Also, write what you don't know about. You'll find that if you do the latter, the subconscious will kick in and soon enough you'll be writing about something you don't know about as if you did. (Crazy, I know; but it works.)
5. Rewrite. Never rest on your laurels. Never think that what you've written, because it was so difficult to produce, is good enough. It can always be improved. Put the piece aside for a week, two weeks, a month, and then come back to it with fresh eyes.
6. Find one or two, or even three, people whose judgement you trust, show them your work and ask for criticism. It's hard, at first, to have your precious MS ripped apart before your eyes, but it's necessary. The process of finding those few critics might take time - as you discard those critics who offer nothing - but persevere.
7. Remember that conventional education, or intelligence, has no bearing on whether you'll make it as a writer of commercial fiction. You don't have to be a college graduate to write good stories.
8. Write about emotions. Keep a jotter just for the explication of emotions, of how you feel. Remember, every piece of fiction is about characters; those characters are human beings. They not only think, but feel.
9. Remember that the majority of readers read fiction not to learn, but to feel. We want to identify with characters, and we can only do that if the characters' emotions are described with sufficient fidelity and verity. If the reader believes in your characters, feels for them, wants to know what will happen to them, then you've won over that reader.
10. Keep description to a minimum, no matter how wonderful the world is you're describing. The reader isn't interested in your world as a world; they're interested in how your world affects your characters. Have your characters respond to the landscape, as seen through their eyes.
10a. Try to make your dialogue as naturalistic as possible. Use apostrophes. Don't say: "I will now go to Mars," but, "I'll go to Mars." Use 'said' rather than the million and one synonyms for said. Keep your stories pacey, unless you're imitating Proust or Thackeray. Short scenes, preferably. Keep the reader guessing. End on cliff-hangers. (And remember that there are always exceptions to the above.)
10b. Send out your MS and keep sending the damned thing out. Don't be discouraged by rejections. (I had twenty novels rejected before I sold my first.) And, when you are published, don't take bad reviews to heart. Remember: they're just one person's opinion. Every book out there will have readers who hate it, readers who will feel neither love nor hate for it, and readers who will love it and think it the best thing they've ever read.
Never stop writing. The only people who have failed at writing are those who have stopped.
- Eric Brown
Eric's newest Bengal Station novel, Cosmopath will hit the stands in January. In the meantime, watch out for more guest blogging from Solaris authors, here at When Gravity Fails!