The sheer scope of a novel, the word count, can be daunting. This is the advice I was given and which has stood me in good stead, even now, five books later:
1. Some writers swear by outlines and planning every detail of their story before committing it to paper. Others, (like me), have only a rough plan, a germ of an idea before they start writing. This second option makes for a much messier and longer route – for me, there are invariably detours down minor characters’ story paths and heavier editing in the later stages, but I enjoy the freedom of not having a rigid synopsis, and need the leeway for my characters to grow and to surprise me so the ending becomes something completely different to what I vaguely envisioned. But… choose the path that works best for you.
2. Don’t worry about title or font. Or even word count. Just start writing. Get the words down. Everything else will come.
3. Have a good beginning that hooks the reader.
4. Don’t get too bogged down by getting every sentence just right. It doesn’t matter that the spelling is not perfect, that you are not sure about the grammar. You can always check that later – and there will be editors to do it for you. For now, concentrate on getting the story down. If you have a rough draft, you can always hone it. It is getting the initial draft down that is the challenge.
5. Following on from point 4, if you are not sure about something you’re writing about – say you are setting your story in the 80s, and want to check the music of the time – don’t stop writing and attend to it immediately. If you go on to the internet in the name of research, you’ll lose the flow of the story. Highlight the bit you want to check and go back to it later, but for now, just write.
6. Switch off the internet.
7. Try and set yourself a manageable deadline – say 1000 words a day. This way, you will have the first draft of a novel in 70 – 100 days.
8. Some days will be more productive than others. But try and write every day and if one day you don’t make up your word count, go for it the next day. Even a few words are better than none.
9. Think of each chapter as a short story. This allows you to cut down the novel into manageable chunks.
10. Set a word count for each chapter. For me, a chapter is roughly 2000 words. Of course this changes depending on how much you want to say in each. Some of my chapters are 1000 words long and some go on to 3000 words or more, but setting a word count serves as a benchmark and seems achievable. Also completing a chapter gives you a sense of achievement and spurs you on.
11. Like a short story, make sure each chapter has a beginning that intrigues, and an ending that leaves you wanting more.
12. The middle part of writing the novel – the bit where you are moving the story forward once you have set the scene – is, for me, (and having discussed this with fellow authors, for writers in general it seems), the hardest. For me, the slog sets in at about 40,000 words or so. Some days you’ll wonder why you are doing it at all. Try not to look at the big picture. Don’t think of how much you have left to go. Just think of the word count you need to meet for the day and try to make it as interesting as you possibly can.
13. It’s been said that the beginning sells your book to the reader and the ending makes the reader buy your next book. The ending needs to be satisfying while at the same time leaving the reader gasping for more.
14. Once you have written your first draft, then you can begin the task of re-reading, editing, polishing.
15. When writing the first draft, you embellish. When editing, you cut, cut, cut.
16. No matter how tempting, try to avoid showing your effort to friends and well-wishers before it is ready. It is YOUR story; their well-meaning suggestions will only muddy the water.
17. Believe in yourself and your writing.
What if you discovered that everything you knew about yourself was a lie?
When pregnant Jaya loses her mother, then her baby son Arun in a tragic cot death, her world crashes down. Overcome by grief and guilt, she begins to search for answers – to the enigma of her lonely, distant mother, and her mysterious past in India.
Looking through her mother’s belongings, she finds two diaries and old photographs, carrying the smoky aroma of fire. A young boy smiles out at Jaya from every photograph – and in one, a family stand proudly in front of a sprawling mansion. Who is this child? And why did her mother treasure this memento of a regal family lost to the past?
As Jaya starts to read the diaries, their secrets lead her back to India, to the ruin of a once grand house on a hill. There, Kali, a mad old lady, will unlock the story of a devastating lie and a fire that tore a family apart.
Nothing though will prepare Jaya for the house’s final revelation, which will change everything Jaya knew about herself.
If you enjoy Dinah Jefferies, Lucinda Riley and Santa Montefiore, you will love this unforgettable journey through the lush landscape of India to the heart of what it means to be a mother and daughter.
What everyone is saying about A Mother’s Secret
‘I loved this book, the descriptions of India, the mansion, the food and the people are swoon worthy. And the characters are so real, so believable, so frail and fraught with their own mistakes, I felt like I was an observer, watching real people as I read this book.’ Cayocosta
‘5 out of 5 stars…I read it in one shot because I couldn’t bear to stop…what I can promise you is that it is a great read…A book that was an absolute pleasure to read.’ Any Excuse to Read
‘Beautifully written . . . Renita D’Silva skilfully weaves an enthralling tale . . . In so doing, she manages to seamlessly incorporate love, betrayal, disappointment, heartbreak, deceit and victory. This is a wonderful, evocative story that readers will easily embrace and enjoy.’ Jan’s Book Buzz