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  • Writer's pictureDavid Darling




By David Darling 2021-01-05

Part 1 of 2

I had an opportunity to reach out and ask several authors for advice for new or aspiring writers. I know the power of advice and encouragement. The right words can motivate, inspire, and renew confidence in your abilities or a project. I am honored that the following authors have responded and agreed to answer a few questions. I hope their words offer guidance to the reader; they indeed were to me. In order to keep the article brief, I will publish part two in a few weeks.

#1 New York Times Best Selling Author of the Vince Flynn - Mitch Rapp series and many others.

The best advice for new and aspiring authors?

“Finish your book. So many new writers get bogged down and never arrive at the last page.”

What other genres would you like to explore?

“I've had a sci-fi book bouncing around in my head for a decade, but I don't know if I'll ever get around to writing it.”

International Best-Selling Author of the Sarah Roberts series and The Immortal Gene

What are common traps for aspiring authors?

“Writers need to beware of the pitfalls of the business, and the only way to do that is to research the publishing industry. I always advise new writers to look deep, pull back the glittery layers, and see the ugly side of publishing for what it can be, then move forth armed and prepared.

Writing and publishing your work is exhilarating and truly exciting, but once you’ve been duped, lost money, steered wrong on a contract, or had your rights swallowed by a vanity press, your excitement soon dissipates.

I don’t say this to discourage anyone. I say it because I didn’t do this and lost thousands of dollars in the early part of my career. I wasted time with editors who weren’t good for me and spent time with independent publishers who tried to coerce my work from me.

So, I researched and researched and chose a new path for my career. Once I’d done that, I found true success, and I believe any other writer can, too.

Ultimately, my advice to a new writer is to keep going.

Don’t stop.

Learn the rules of writing and then break some of them. Always move forward. Edit later. Write for goosebumps and tears. If you’re moved by what you’re typing, your readers will be, too. Resist flashbacks and dreams. They slow the pace. Only use them if you have to, but try to avoid them.

Never write for money. Make the story your focus. When you’ve done that, the money will come.

Also, minimize the time you’re on social media to ten percent of your writing time; otherwise, it can consume you. The best advertising for a writer is to publish another book—so write. Just write, and it’ll all come together.

But make sure you have emotion on every page. Make sure the characters feel something. As tensions rise toward the ending of the book, as the conflict increases, so should the emotional stakes. Often, characters are seething with fury, or overwhelmed with joy, or downright disheartened by certain developments in the plot, and this translates to the reader, offering them a bumpy emotional ride. When the reader reviews on Amazon speak about the emotional scenes, I know I’ve done my job well.”

The best advice for new and aspiring authors?

“The simple advice is never to stop writing. I mean, we hear it all the time to persevere, keep going, never quit, but this is the truth and the way.

I wrote my first short story when I was ten-years-old. Throughout my teens and into my twenties, I was always writing. When I hit thirty years of age, I began to take it more seriously by approaching literary agents and publishers. After another ten years of that and finding no success—I couldn’t secure a deal or sign with an agent—I self-published when I entered my forties.

And I didn’t quit there.

In 2011, my first few Sarah Roberts novels came out, and they sold like crazy, with readers messaging me for more. I headed to Europe, and by the end of 2011, I was living in Greece by the Mediterranean Sea, writing full time, making a living off of self-publishing.

Five years later, in 2016, I received my first offer from Hollywood. Sony Pictures wanted the Sarah Roberts Series for T.V. That same summer, I signed with a literary agent. My agent has struck several lucrative deals for me since then, and I continue to self-publish my Sarah Roberts novels, with book 26, The Depraved, coming out in December 2020.

So, in summation, never give up on your dream. Keep at it, and if it’s something you want bad enough, you’ll get it.

You just have to believe.

I know I did.”

New York Times and #1 Amazon Best Seller of the Pierce Hunt and Mike Waldon thriller series

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

“Best money I ever spent as a writer was to hire a freelance editor prior to submitting it to agents. Selecting the right developmental editor is CRUCIAL.”

The best advice for new and aspiring authors?

“There are many (developmental) editors out there who aren’t good. If possible, I recommend hiring a former editor from one of the big publishing houses.”

Author and served for over thirty years as a paramedic in Toronto and as a tactical medic (SWAT and public order) with the Ontario Provincial Police

How do you select names for your characters?

“Naming characters can be one of the most stressful and difficult challenges a writer faces when crafting their stories. A name isn’t just a word we give someone. It represents much about who that character is. It suggests a person’s background ethnicity, tells us a bit about their roots or evokes emotions merely by the way the reader pronounces their name in their head or aloud.

When I name my main characters, I almost always try to come up with names that are rhythmic—Alex Martel, Caleb Copeland, Martin Bressard. In my head, at least, they roll off the tongue. But how I came up with those names is another matter. Some of my characters have gone through several name changes, including my heroin Alexandra (Alex) Martel. For her, it was largely seeing how the story evolved around her and deciding if the name ‘fit.’

As far as finding names, I have used different methods. I have gone to lists of popular names on the internet and found names I liked. In doing that, I also try to be period specific. So, a character born in the 80s or 90s would likely come from a vastly different list than one born in the 40s or 50s. The other method I use, especially for more secondary characters, is to look at the rosters for international sports teams—my go-to’s are hockey and soccer—and mix and match names until I come up with something I like. For example, if I need the name of a Russian character, I check out the roster of the Russian men’s or women’s hockey team, and voilà, the Russian diplomatic husband and wife team of Viktor Makarov and Oxana Nikolayeva is born!”

The best advice for new and aspiring authors?

“In a word? Write. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Inspiration won’t strike while you’re watching Mork & Mindy reruns. Well, it might, but it shouldn’t be your expectation. The only way to be a writer is to put the time and work in. Put away the books on craft for now (although you should be reading them as well) and just sit down at your computer, or pick up that pen and steno pad, and write. True inspiration comes as you’re putting words on the page. Whatever your starting idea is, just get it down. It’s like throwing a ball of clay onto a pottery wheel—at first, it looks like a blob of muck, but as you work it, caress it, put gentle pressure on it, a shape takes form. Sooner or later, that shape might even become recognizable as something magnificent. Same goes for writing!

The other advice that was given to me by a couple of good friends (successful writers in their own right) goes hand in hand with what I said above. And that is, don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. When it comes to process, there are as many ways to write as there are writers. A writer’s process is a moveable point on a spectrum somewhere between plotters and pantsers. In case you didn’t know, plotters spend a lot of time working out the story arcs, characters, set-pieces, etc., before they really get rolling in the writing of their story. Pantsers, on the other hand, are those who just get to the act of writing before they really have any idea where they’re going. Most writers, of course, fall somewhere between those polar-opposite points.

I mostly fall into the pantsers category, but I made the mistake and let too many years go by listening to those who told me I couldn’t write a novel unless I outlined, outlined, and then outlined some more! If you study your craft, if you read a lot of books in your preferred genre, if you understand the story, then one of these methods will speak to you more than the other. And if writing happens as a result, and that writing just keeps getting better (it will with practice!), then that is your process, and don’t let anybody tell you you’re wrong.

Now, go write!”

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