I often meet aspiring authors who ask me how they might know if they have it in them to succeed as a novelist. So here are my tips on the five signs that you should write a novel, which is published on Crimespree here. Here is the article in it’s entirety and I hope you find it useful:
Have you thought about writing a mystery or suspense novel, but you’ve doubted your ability? Have you told yourself that you’ll do it one day, or that you don’t know where to begin, or your life is just too busy? My advice is don’t delay. You could be the next best-selling author. You’ll never know unless you try.
I had always wanted to be a novelist. I studied Literature at college but instead of pursuing my dream, I went into magazine publishing. Everyone told me there was no money in writing books. I should get a real job and stop living in a fantasy world. It took me twenty years to pluck up the courage to write my first thriller. When it was published, my whole life changed for the better. I’m now a full-time author: The Safe Place is my seventh novel. I not only write thrillers under the pseudonym L.A. Larkin, and I also write dog detective cozies as Louisa Bennet. I love what I do and sometimes I wish I had become an author earlier in life. But all my life experiences, and the different countries I’ve lived in, have given me a wealth of knowledge that fuels the plots I now write. If you think you may have a novel in you, here are five questions to ask yourself:
Do you have lots of ideas?
Did you write stories as a child? Do story ideas pop into your head? If so, jot them down. Do you love telling your kids stories when you put them to bed? These are signs of your creativity. Embarking on the journey of writing a novel can feel a little daunting. If the size a novel – usually between 80,000 to 110,00 words – is putting you off from starting to write, then why not pen a short story? Maybe enter it in competitions? It’s like any skill in life: the more practice you get, the better you are at it.
Are you observant?
Authors are observers. I watch people: how they walk, their mannerisms, facial expressions. I listen to the way people speak, the pet words and slang they use. If I go to new places, I take photos and video. I pay attention to the sounds, the smell, the feel of the place, even the taste, which could be the saltiness of the sea or the acrid taste in the air after a wildfire. These sensory details can help you bring a place to life on the page and enable your reader to imagine they are there too.
Are you a passionate reader?
Do you love reading? Do you pay attention to the way an author you enjoy writes their novels? Do you try to solve the mystery before the killer’s identity is revealed? Which genre/sub-genre are you drawn to? Is it psychological thrillers, cozy mysteries, police procedurals, to name just a few sub-genres that come under the crime fiction umbrella? I teach crime and thriller writing and I always advise my students to find a genre and a theme they feel passionate about. To work through the various drafts of a novel can take a long time, so you need to love your topic.
Are you disciplined?
This might seem a strange question. There are myths that an author’s life is about lazy mornings in coffee shops, waiting for inspiration. For me, it’s about working a full day and then doing emails, publicity, and social media in the evening. I often work weekends because I have a deadline. My advice for aspiring authors is to find a regular time to write. Diarize it. Ask your family to be understanding. Shut the door and wear noise cancelling headphones if that helps. Or try working at the library. When I was writing my first thriller, I was also working full-time. I used to get to work at 7 a.m. and write my book for an hour before my boss and colleagues arrived.
Do you communicate in stories?
When you are telling a friend about something that happened, or you are trying to explain something, do you convey this in a story? Do you use emotive language to engage your listener? When you want to make a point, is the journey as important as the message? My husband tells me I do this, without even realizing. This way of communicating indicates that you like to use words to entertain, and a novel is all about entertainment.
If the answers to the above questions are mostly yes, I urge you to have a try. I have two tips that may help you. Firstly, do a writing course that matches the genre you wish to write in, or join a writers’ group: they will help you stay motivated and will hopefully give you useful feedback on your manuscript. Secondly, find someone who believes you can succeed and who will keep telling you this. If it wasn’t for my husband’s encouragement, I wouldn’t be a full-time author today. There were plenty of times I thought of giving up. I’m so very glad I didn’t.