1. Set yourself a daily (or weekly) word count and stick to it. Don’t go back and re-read or edit, just write. Get the first draft out and then go back and look through it. Otherwise the inner critic will never let you finish.
2. Read. The best way to learn how to write well, is to read. However, be cautious – bad habits are easier to pick up than good. Don’t just read novels either, read books about how to write. Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the best and inspirational too.
3. Ask an experienced writer for feedback. The best thing I did was to ask a novelist to read through my first work and critique it as honestly and brutally as necessary. You can’t have an ego when you’re a writer or you’ll never grow. I was devastated by most of the feedback but I took it on the chin and learned from it. It was the best advice I’ve had.
4. Keep at it. So many people I’ve spoken to have written some part of a novel yet never finished it. Keep going, try not to lose momentum. You will get there.
5. Edit, edit and then edit some more. Be ruthless. If it doesn’t strengthen the story or move the plot along then cut it. Stephen King refers to it as ‘Killing your darlings’. For me, it’s the absolute final edit when the magic happens: the dialogue becomes sharper, the scenes richer. It’s the polish that will bring your story to life.
Haley's book It's Got to Be Perfect is available here.