To celebrate the recent release of her new novel The Irish Nanny, we asked author Sandy Taylor to put together an exclusive piece for us, all about what she's learned on her journey as a writer so far...
We all struggle with some things. I think this goes for all writers, even the very successful ones. It’s self-doubt and the blank page. I find the best way to overcome this, is to write, just write. It doesn’t have to be perfect but the next time you go back to it, you have something on the page, it isn’t blank, you’ve made a start and you can edit it.
Never, never pad the story out. These are the pages that a reader will skim over, I’ve done it myself when reading a book. Every word and every sentence must take the story forward. If at the end of the book you have fallen a bit short of the desired word count you can revisit the book and enjoy making what you have written even better, without having to pad it out. I prefer to read and also to write short chapters, I feel that this too helps to move the story on.
Always try to end a chapter on a hook that will make your reader want to turn the page and keep turning. My books are generally around the ninety thousand mark but try not to think about it too much. The best piece of advise I have ever been given is.. ‘Just write the story’ I remind myself of that all the time.
There are challenges and writer's block. The same applies here. Just write; you can always go back and edit but keep going and you will eventually end up with that book or that short story.
I find the middle bit the most challenging, because in the first part of the book you are creating your characters and the last part you are well into the plot and on the downward slope to the end. So yes, just tell the story and you will get there in the end.
Show and tell. I’m sure you know about showing and not just telling but this is very important. I will give you a short example:
Our character is replaying, or relating something that recently happened.
‘I was so worried about meeting him, I just didn’t know how it would go, as I hadn’t seen him for weeks It was really awkward to begin with but it turned out better than I could have hoped for’.
This is telling and not showing so try writing it like this.
‘As soon as I walked into the park I saw him. He was sitting at our special bench and he had his back to me. I could just turn around now and run but I had to see him, I needed to see him. I walked over and sat down. He didn’t look up. He was hunched forward, with his hands resting on his knees, he didn’t look at me.
A couple walked past, hand in hand, the girl was laughing up at the boy, they looked happy.
Joe and I were like that once but not anymore.
There was a cool breeze blowing off the boating lake, causing ripples on the water and lifting the hair on the back of my neck. It was springtime. The grass was dotted with bright yellow daffodils and purple crocuses. white snowdrops clustered around the base of a tree, like a ballerina’s skirt. The air was filled with the smell of new beginnings, this was not a day for endings. We sat in silence and then I felt his hand in mine.
‘You came then?’ he said softly.
I squeezed his hand, we were going to be okay. ‘I came,’ I said.
So you have now taken your reader to the park, you have described the awkwardness between them, they are there. They can see what your characters can see and they can smell what your characters can smell.
Your characters. The most important part of writing is getting the characters right, if you can do this you are on the right track. Make them real, your reader needs to connect with them, they have to care for them, be happy for them or feel their sadness. Draw from your own experiences.
Were there times when you doubted yourself? Times when you didn’t feel you fitted in? Times when you have been hurt? Dig deep, make your characters real, don’t make them perfect, none of us are perfect and none of us are one dimensional and most of us have a story to tell.
You are taking your readers on a journey and if they complete that journey you have got it right. You want your characters to stay with them long after they have turned the final page.
The Irish Nanny, by Sandy Taylor, is out now and available from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Google and more.
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