1. Write! It sounds obvious, but it’s the thing I hear the most: how much an aspiring author wants to write a book but they just can’t find the time or inclination. The only answer to this is to get on with it. Start something! Half the battle to getting published is in sitting down and slogging out 100,000 words. This might sound terrifying,but, like Jackie Collins says, if you manage 1000 words a day, you’ll have a book in less than four months. It doesn’t matter if you don’t rate your first draft – all first drafts need work. The point is that once you reach ‘The End’, you’ll have a complete manuscript to work on, edit, and eventually present to a literary agent.
2. It’s all about the story. Swathes of descriptive passages don’t move the plot along. Always look to be driving your story forward. A bit of description helps dress a stage, but too much is stifling – remember the reader is bringing her or his own imagination into play as well, so you don’t want to be over-prescriptive. Sometimes, if I’m stuck partway through a chapter, I’ll write a list of everything that needs to happen in those pages and then move on. I’ll return to this later and know the nuts and bolts of the story are there, even if the writing itself needs work.
3. Characters are your most vital assets. In some cases, get the characters right and they will lead the way. So … know them. It’s worth spending time on this before you dive in – the hardest books I’ve written are always those for which I didn’t have a proper hold on my characters beforehand. Try putting together a character sheet, where you pour out everything you know about that person. This can include details your readers might never discover: a favourite book, song or colour; what they’re afraid of; who their first love was. It’s so you know them inside out before you begin.