VIPs tend to be the best at what they do (otherwise they wouldn’t be important), so part of what I do at Live Like a VIP is to work out how we can all live life better and fulfill our goals. I have always wanted to write a novel and I meet a lot of people who share the same dream. Recently I heard there may be a way to help us turn our novel-writing dreams into reality thanks to a new book by novelist and ghost-writer Lynne Barrett-Lee.
I’ve just started writing about books for Live Like a VIP and while I have only written about fiction in my books section until this point, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Barrett-Lee’s non-fiction book, Novel, and interview her. She knows what she is talking about as she has had eight novels published (check them out on her website) as well as an extensive career ghost-writing. Some of the celebrities / high profile people she’s ghosted for wish to stay anonymous but most of what she’s done seems to be pretty successful. She’s worked with TV presenter Fiona Phillips (below) and what’s really cool is that some of her work has been on the Sunday Times bestseller list. I repeat, Barrett-Lee is qualified to write a book explaining about how to write books.
The book, which is published by Thistle, is available to download for the Kindle for just £3.99. It’s loosely based on the creative writing course Barrett-Lee teaches at Cardiff University, where she has taught published authors. A benefit of it being influenced by this course is that each chapter is packed with information on an important part of the planning / writing process.
The chapters all have teaching and explanation, which is all written in an easy-to-follow-way, and then there are writing exercises so we can test to see if we can do the theory. The writing exercises are fun as you start to realise you’re better at it than you thought you were and it starts to unlock the creative process. Writing something – anything – makes your less fearful about putting finger to keyboard to write your own book.
I really felt I’d learned something at the end of each section. My mind became enriched and clearer. I truly believe that in just a few chapters, the book that I’d always wanted to write unfolded in my mind and mapped itself out. Before reading Novel, I knew what I wanted and I had a goal in mind but the path looked perilous and confusing. Novel helped me clear a route and get to know the fictional characters that would be taking the journey with me.
How did it do this? Firstly, by putting emphasis on the planning side of things. We should all plan chapters so it makes it easier for ourselves to focus and we should have an idea of our end, key moments along the way and work back to the beginning. There is a whole chapter on how to start a book so it’s as exciting as it can possibly be and chapters on explaining writer’s jargon, dealing with writers block and common recipes for success. However, I think I learned a lot from the dialogue chapter as bad dialogue kills a novel. Dialogue scared me in the past and I dwelled on it too much, but there are exercises in Novel to make it easier to write in a natural way, just as Lynne has done ever since her first novel, Julia Gets a Life, in 2000.
If you think you’ve got a bestseller inside you but don’t know how to get the words on the page then buying Novel will be one of the best ways you’ve ever spent £3.99.
As an extra treat, I interviewed Lynne Barrett-Lee about life as a writer to find out if it was worth doing as a living.
QS: How long will it take me to write a novel?
LBL: All my novels have taken me longer to plan than to write. I would say the average amount of time is a year. That said, I did my first novel in 4 weeks. That is because I already knew what I wanted to say and I didn’t read it back and proof read it. In hindsight, I would always recommend doing a draft, going away and reading it back.
QS: How often do you spend a day writing?
LBL: When my three kids were younger I’d be very disciplined. I’d take the kids to school then write 930am-330pm and that was it. Now my kids have all grown up, I write all the time. That’s partly because I enjoy it and partly because I have some great opportunities from publishers and I don’t want to turn them down. My husband is hoping he can retire early because of my writing….but we’re not there yet!
QS: Is there still money writing fiction?
LBL: Yes, but to be honest the market has changed. When I first started, it was all about the romantic comedy, chick-lit. Now I think readers require a bit more of a challenging read, what is called a Book Club book. Since Richard and Judy started their book club, clubs have started across the country and these books are looking for plots that can be discussed and analysed. If you can get a book on Richard and Judy’s book club list, which is promoted in book stores around the country, then you could make a lot of money. But it’s not easy!
QS: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your 13 year writing career?
LBL: There is no quick fix. Firstly, if you want to be a writer then you need talent. If you have talent, the difference between getting published and not is the amount of work you put in. There is no quick fix or magic pill. If you want to diet you need to stick to a plan and if you want to get published it’s a similar thing. Keep writing. Have discipline. Luck is not a factor, it’s more about hard work. Keep on and on and on and that’s the only way to get there.
QS: What is the key things that separate a published author from someone that has never finished a novel?
LBL: I think the main thing is people don’t know what they want to say in a novel. If you don’t know what message you’re trying to say then it’s impossible to keep the scenes and dialogue relevant. That’s why people give up. If you plan well then you know where you’re going and you’re less likely to give up.
QS: And finally, what is the best tip you could give an aspiring writer?
LBL: Show don’t tell. Readers don’t want you telling them what is happening. You need to let the action happen. It’s all about the action!
I wanted to talk to Lynne Barrett-Lee all day, but she had some writing to get on with. After reading her book, I have some to get on with too. I’m excited! Visit Lynne Barrett-Lee’s website to see more of her writing and you can chat to her on Twitter @LynneBarrettLee Don’t forget I’m on Twitter @zoegriffin – I love hearing from you!