From our Author Spotlight of the Month: Aaron J Webber
1 Your first draft is not the final draft. Neither is the second, or third.
This is just as true for fiction as it is where I work as a senior writer. The only person who should ever read your first draft is you. Nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft, not Tolkien, not Gaiman, not even the authors of the Gospels; your first draft should be an exercise in getting everything in your head out onto the paper. It’s a brain dump of every good and bad idea you have for your story. You can’t begin to refine and shape your story until you actually have words on a page to work with. Once you have something that exists in the physical world, then the hard work of cutting and polishing begin.
2 If it doesn’t add to the story, get rid of it
We’ve all experienced the euphoria of being “in the zone” while writing, when we wrote some truly beautiful prose or inspirational dialogue, but the truth is that no matter how great it is, sometimes it doesn’t belong in your story. Writing is more than just how many words you can put on a page or how “impressive” your writing is, writing also knowing which words to take away, it’s knowing when a description is too long or too much. Remember, you are writing a story, not a Wikipedia page. If you want your readers to engage with your world, you need to make your story interesting, not just a display of how great you think your writing is. If something doesn’t add to the flow or theme of your story, you need to get rid of it.
3 Feedback is never wrong
When you give someone a fourth or fifth draft to read, you should do so with the expectation of feedback. You will, of course, receive feedback about your story that will hurt your feelings or make you angry. That’s natural. After all, your story is like your baby. But just because the feedback is hard, doesn’t mean it is wrong. Did the reader say something was confusing? It was, for them. Did they say a passage was boring? It was, for them. Every criticism you get is going to be true in some way, and if you want to be a real writer, you need to decide which feedback you want to incorporate into your story and how. Ignoring any feedback is no way to improve your writing.
4 Your writing is only as good as the content you consume
If you want to be a romance author, you need to read romance. If you want to write sci-fi, you need to read sci-fi. Doing this lets you truly understand what makes your genre compelling. You can learn what you like or don’t like in a book and you can build your repertoire of techniques or ideas you can play with later. Don’t worry about being original or accidentally copying ideas from those you read — there’s no such thing as an original idea, and if you spend your time trying to think of something truly unique, you’ll never write anything.
5 Create characters, not placeholders
An interesting world isn’t good enough to make a good story. A unique event or magic system don’t make a good book. Characters make good stories. Characters are what keep us reading and coming back for more. Don’t work hard on a magical world only to pull a “Hollywood” and give us boring, two-dimensional characters who live in it. If you create interesting, realistic characters with dreams and flaws, then the interactions between those characters will naturally form compelling and interesting stories. It’s up to you to choose which of those stories to explore and how they play out. Good characters will sometimes surprise the author with some of the decision they make.
You can read Aaron J Webber’s latest novel, Annals of an Empire, on BookBoro today!