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Novel Writing: Self-Belief and Staying Power (Part 2)

This week, I thought I’d take a break from the usual Virtual Book Club format. Instead, I put the same question to a number of authors. 

“A novel requires stamina and grit,” says author Oyinkan Braithwaite. “You need a certain kind of faith in yourself and in what you are doing to bang out 40,000-plus words. But I learned style from poetry and short stories.” 

What I wanted to know is:

(a) how did you learn your craft?


(b) where do you get your stamina from? 

I received so many replies that this is Part 2…

Delia C. Pitts (Fan Fiction)

I started writing stories in second grade (my mother typed them and stapled them into book form). The best training was writing for high school, college, and professional newspapers: in journalism I learned to get quickly to the essence of the story, deliver it in compelling style, memorise telling words and dialogue, and respect your readers’ intelligence. My next writing ‘school’ was the dashing world of fan fiction. I wrote more than sixty fan stories in all genres, from romance to crime to erotica to fantasy. Practice, practice, and do it again were the watch words of fan fiction. A terrific environment for trying out the craft. 

JJ Toner (Thriller Author)

I learned by reading and making mistakes. I also devoured about twenty books on how to write, and then wrote some more and made some more mistakes. I took a course on Screenwriting, too and then made some more mistakes. I hope to get it right one of these days. 

Louise Tondeur (Literary fiction, non-fiction & short stories)

From writing over and over again in notebooks from age seven or eight, then doing a drama degree, then meeting someone who taught me about story structure years later. Stamina – hmmm – I really love doing it. Don’t know where the time goes. Making myself turn up regularly in the first place is harder. Working to deadlines and getting up early works for me.

Lynne Davidson

I was a social worker, that really shows you a huge variety of different sorts of people many of whom have to have various reports written on them for different purposes. It was quite hard to realise it was ok to make things up in a novel and stop using more formal language and style!

Marian Thorpe (Sci-fi, Fantasy, Alternative History)

I learned my craft by reading, reading, reading from the age of three, and then beginning to write seriously in my late teens. Stamina? It doesn’t feel like work at all…and I have the personality that when I’m really into something, I don’t like stopping.

Keith Dixon (Thriller, Espionage)

I began writing when I was sixteen, enthused by the American novels I’d been reading and wanting to emulate them. I bought an old Underwood typewriter that you had to stand on the keys to operate, then a Smith-Corona electric. I banged out seven novels in two years in my early 20s, then more or less gave up on long fiction for twenty years. In the meantime, I read everything on writing I could get my hands on and started to read novels critically – trying to learn how my favourite writers did what they did, one word after the next, one sentence after the next, and so on …

It also helped that many of the jobs I had involved writing to some extent: advertising copywriter, e-learning course producer, lecturer in English literature, business psychologist. (Ahem, I moved around a bit …)

(See featured image – The Lonely Grave)

Amy Maroney

I learned my craft first from reading extensively and writing my own ‘books’, starting as a young child. Then I spent fifteen years working as a nonfiction writer and editor before I turned my hand to fiction several years ago. The discipline I learned from writing on deadline for all those years really sunk in. I have a strong creative drive that has to get out – sort of like a steam vent or a volcano! I need to write to unleash that creative energy and that’s where my stamina comes from. 




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