First of all, let me say that I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert but I have picked up a few tricks of the trade as I’ve gone along. Here’s a random selection based on my own experience. I hope you find them useful:
* Don’t spend ages writing the ‘perfect’ opening to your novel. Make it as good as you can – for now – and move on, because you will rewrite it, probably many times, when you return to it later.
* Don’t try to emulate other writers, no matter how much you admire them. Read them and be inspired, but find your own ‘voice’. You may not know what that means to begin with but just keep writing and you’ll know when you’re comfortable with the way you write.
* Find original and different ways of saying things. Use words in unusual contexts and even make up your own words. You don’t want to repeat what’s been said a thousand times before. This again is part of finding your voice.
* Make it easy on yourself. Keep the interest going in the main plot with plenty of twists and turns, but limit the number of sub-plots, otherwise you’ll have a hard job tying them all up by the end, and you risk confusing – and losing – your reader.
* If you lose direction, ask yourself the question ‘what is my story?’ Remind yourself of the main premise and the theme, if you have one, and take that as your jumping off point for your next chapter.
* If you feel it’s all gone wrong and whole thing is rubbish, don’t panic and rush into a rewrite. Leave it alone for a day, ideally longer, then come back to it with a fresh eye. Chances are it will be fine, and if not, you will see more clearly where you need to make changes.
* When it comes to submission time, polish your script until it dazzles. Check, check, and check again for ugly sentences, repetitions, continuity errors and typos, reading from the printed version (ideal) or your Kindle. Proof readers, copy editors etc. should be your back-up. You alone are responsible for making your book the best it can be.
I’m not a huge fan of ‘writing rules’ – the internet is flooded with the things and it would drive you mad if you tried to follow them all – but here are some I really like, and which make perfect sense to me:
Deborah Moggach’s 12-point plan for writing success.
Sarah Waters’ 10 rules for writing fiction.
I’ve read lots of books on writing, as you do, and these I find particularly useful. I often dive in for a quick read if I need inspiration:
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Solutions for Novelists by Sol Stein
Story by Robert McKee (This one’s directed at screenwriters but works well for novelists in terms of understanding what story is)
Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias