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Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors

Updated on June 18, 2011

Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet

The Case of Billy B

 These days anybody can write a book and get it published.  The days of sending off query letters to hundreds of busy literary agents, praying fervently that one of them will notice your query, are long over.  They are a dying breed, those uppity agents.  Now you can publish a print on demand book for free.  You get those vanity presses and self-publishing houses who charge an outrageous amount, but then you get Lulu and Createspace who charge you nothing.  You pay only for your proof copy plus postage.  And you know what?  The quality ain’t half-bad either.  They look like the real thing.  The only bad thing is, is that you have to do your own marketing, and boy is that hard work!  Of course, maybe you don’t want to sell your work, you just want to see your name in print.  With self-publishing, you can do it.

You don’t have to be any good or possess natural talent to be able to become a published author.  Any fool can do it.  Write a book of poetry, a novel, a guide, whatever, and save your files as a PDF then upload them.  Use the handy cover creator templates to create your cover, and voila!  You have a book you wrote, you are a published author!  Click another button at no extra cost, and your book is available for purchase on Amazon.  Now, as you can imagine, this is what a great many people all over the world are doing, so Amazon has a huge database of books which are virtually unreadable because they are badly written and complete unadulterated crap.  And that’s putting it in a nice way.  If you are writing a book to sell and be read, then you need to ensure that it is ranked well on Amazon and comes up in keyword searches.  Really, you need to write that book as if you are writing it for a literary agent and traditional publisher.  That book has to be as hot as, if you want it to get noticed.

So, you might ask, how the hell do I write an as hot as book?  You need to come up with a plan, a basic outline.  Some people, reckon they write from the heart and have no plan.  It just flows.  Yeah, like the tears down my cheeks when I try and read that crap.  Seriously, you need a plan otherwise you’ll go off on tangents so that even you’ll get confused.  With my latest book, ‘The Case of Billy B,’ I had a basic plot, and most importantly, I had a problem.  Every novel has a problem, a dilemma, something that causes tension that builds up to a climax, and then the conclusion.  Without a proper plan, you won’t be able to pace the book properly to reach the climax at the right time.  A liken it to sex and how unsatisfying it is to reach climax too early.  It’s the same in a book.  You have to have a build up the anticipation, the longing for that climax before you unleash it with all the passion you can muster.  It’s all about the timing.  In ‘The Case of Billy B’ I started off with my plan, I knew more or less where I wanted to go.  Like when you’re on a long journey.  You know the places where you are going to stop to refuel, buy dinner, spend the night etc.  I knew the main points of my story, what happens in between them I had no clue in the beginning.  That’s when you can let your creativity take over.  I had a father and a son, the mother abandons them, father finds it difficult, moves states and gets another job, caregiver turns psycho, abuses son, stalks father, he has to make a decision.  I didn’t know what decision then, but that was my basic outline.  I did quite a bit of research to make sure I had facts right and my settings were authentic, and then I just ran with it and the story developed a life of its own as it steamed along to the landmark points in the story I’d identified in my outline.  Planning is crucial.

Then of course, there’s discipline.  So many people have a book in them, start to write it and never finish it, because they lack discipline.  My first book was a self-help one about breaking the cycle of bad relationships in your life called ‘Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet.’  That took me far longer than it should have as I was anything but disciplined when I wrote that.  I worked on it when it crossed my mind.  Towards the end, I suddenly got very disciplined and when that happened, the writing just flowed, so much so, that I then went back and rewrote a lot of the earlier stuff.  I also find that if I work out a catchy title first and then always refer to the book I’m working on by its title, it seems more real and then it’s far easier to be disciplined.  Now you might be asking, what the hell do you mean by being disciplined?  I mean, setting aside a certain time every day to work on your book.  Or, it can be a certain word goal for the day.  But then, you have to stick to it.  That’s being disciplined.  With my novel ‘Stop the world, I need to pee!’ I tried to write a page a day, and most days I wrote more.  A page was my minimum, and I did it.  I found myself writing during tea breaks and lunch breaks, and every night before going to bed.  Even if I’d been out on the town, and only returned home at 2am, I’d make sure my page was written before going to bed.  That is discipline.  You have to decide, how much do you want to succeed, and then you have to take a risk and just go for it.  ‘The Case of Billy B’ took me longer than I’d liked, when I put my writing on hold to move continents, countries and jobs, but once I took up the slack again, I became very disciplined, trying to write a minimum of 1200 words a day.

If you want your book to be readable, don’t use too many adjectives and adverbs.  Being overly descriptive places you in the elementary school category where you have to write descriptive paragraphs showing that you understand adjectives.  There is a way to describe the setting without using many adjectives, and the way to learn how to do that, is to read books of authors who do it well.  To write dialogue successfully, you need to imagine the conversations taking place in your head, and write down what you hear the people say.  You have to make the dialogue as authentic as possible.  If it’s a ten year old talking, they have to sound like a ten year old.  It’s no use having a ten year old pontificating about something most ten year olds wouldn’t know about.  Read some of your favourite authors and see how they handle dialogue and try and avoid too many ‘he said’ and ‘she said.’  That gets tedious after a while.  Try and limit your adverbs to one or two per page.

Another great tip is to turn off your inner editor.  When I start to write, I just continue without looking back and editing until the end of the story.  Otherwise, you’ll be revising and revising until you’ve forgotten what it was you wanted to write in the first place.  Editing and revising as you go along also interrupts your train of thought, and makes you discouraged and stop believing in yourself.  It’s best to get the whole story down on your computer from beginning to end, the whole unedited raw first draft, before you re-read and see what changes you want to make.  Which brings me to my next point, find yourself a critical friend, someone you trust who can be honest and knows a thing or two about language structure tenses etc.  For ‘Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet’ and ‘Stop the world, I need to pee!’ I had a good friend do the editing for me.  As I completed each chapter, I would send it off to him and he would send each chapter back to me edited.  I would glance through his suggestions, and apply some of them to subsequent chapters, but I would hold off making any grammar and spelling corrections until I had completed my first draft.  When I was ready to start revision I would work each chapter at a time going through the suggestions and corrections and making any necessary changes.  I find that having a critical friend read my work and make valid suggestions helped to keep me motivated.  If I got stuck with an aspect of the plot, I could chat with him online, and because he was familiar with the story, we could have in-depth discussions about the characters and their actions.  He was a Godsend.  In ‘The Case of Billy B,’ besides my friend editing each chapter as I went along, I also had Charlie (Ralwus) from Hubpages.  This worked really well for me, so my advice is, find yourself a critical friend.  In the current novel I’m working on, ‘Not Telling’ besides my old editor friend I’ve also joined a writer’s group and the critiques and suggestions I get from the writing group members are so valuable to my writing.  They work together to help me to improve.  If you can connect with a writer’s group, I highly recommend it.

My other advice to you is to write about something you know.  Don’t have your heroine a forensic anthropologist like Temperance Brennan in Kathy Reich’s Bones series, when you think the spatula is a bone in your body.  Incidentally, a spatula is a cooking utensil; the bone you’d be looking for would be a scapula.  If you’re writing about a detective then you need to know about detectives, how they walk, talk, live, love and work.  Don’t write about a village of fly fishermen if you’ve never left the city and the closest you came to a fish is the picture on the label of a can of cat food.  You’ll find that if you write about what you know, the writing will flow, you’ll gain in confidence and you’ll feel more comfortable about the whole writing process.  Once you’ve become a confident writer, you can start researching and writing about unknown topics.

Lastly, like an athlete training for the Olympics has to practise every day, so must you practise your writing craft.  You have to train hard to become a good writer, a bestselling author, one who is ranked highly on Amazon.  Don’t limit your writing to your novel, write whenever you get the opportunity.  Keep a blog, you can read mine on, write articles and Hubs for writing sites like Hubpages, join a writing group, take part in NaNoWriMo in November, and write like there’s no tomorrow.  When you read a book, read it with a critical eye, does the author’s dialogue work, how do they set a scene, do transitions etc, learn from them.  Train hard and keep yourself fighting fit.  Writing is hard work, it’s not a quick money-spinner.   The chances of you being noticed and becoming a bestselling author are slim, there is just so much competition out there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try, perfect your craft, and aim for the stars!

The Case of Billy B


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    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Leni, hope you go out and write that novel now!

    • leni sands profile image

      Leni Sands 

      8 years ago from UK

      Brilliantly, informative hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Dolores, need all the luck possible with the marketing! It's so time consuming!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Great advise, Cindy. I bet there are plenty novels hidden away in the minds and computer of hubbers. I have one myself! Good luck with the marketing!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Sree, Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet has plenty of advice for you on how to start a new journey!

    • sree1987 profile image


      8 years ago from India

      An inspiring hub. Let me try reading "Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet" and start a new journey like you soon.

      Thanks for the Hub.


    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Sufi, the final editing is the worst for me as well, by then I am sick of the book and don't want to see it again!

    • Sufidreamer profile image


      8 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      Great Hub, Cindy - I really liked your point about 'turning off the inner editor.' It is no different for non-fiction writers - it is good to just let the words flow and lay out your ideas. Mind you, I am officially the worst typist on Earth, so thank goodness for spellcheckers!

      Running a final edit on a book at the moment, which I always find the dullest part of writing books. Hence the procrastination and lurking on HP :)

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Good luck with your book, Trademelove!

    • Trademelove profile image

      Wade Hartley 

      8 years ago

      Thanks I'm gonna try getting mine published

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Lovelypaper, you need to take those notebooks and sort them and work out a plan of action.

      Caretakerray, sharing is caring lol

    • caretakerray profile image

      Ray Van Hoff 

      8 years ago from Michigan U.S.A.

      cindyvine :

      Great hub. Thanx for setting us aspiring writers straight. luved it! :)


    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 

      8 years ago from Virginia

      I must have started a dozen novels with stacks of notebooks full of prose. It does take discipline and being rejected by an editor is pretty discouraging. You have to believe in yourself and keep on trying. Great hub.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks OD. There is quite a lot on overuse of adverbs or adjectives.

    • Obscurely Diverse profile image

      Obscurely Diverse 

      8 years ago from Tennessee, U.S., Earth, Milky Way via Cosmos

      I think when you said "You don’t have to be any good or possess natural talent to be able to become a published author. Any fool can do it"......that would sum up a lot of things. You got that right!

      I know you was talking about the publishing part of the deal, but that statement can also cover broader grounds when it comes to "writing."

      Luckily for the eager public out there that enjoys expressing opinions, confusion and other self-attained knowledge from is quite easy to do on the internet.

      I have to disagree with your statement on adjectives & adverbs. I've never heard of a writer hating on being overly descriptive before. I think you had it backwards: maybe if you was writing for elementary students, perhaps you wouldn't want to be too descriptive - as you might lose their young minds & attention span in the process. But, it was an interesting notion, to say the least.

      Best of luck with all your future writing endeavors... ;)

    • profile image

      Agung Supomo Suliman 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for your significant inputs

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Hi Faybe, well I am a teacher by profession! Lol You need to hold onto those characters and stopping them fom running off in too many directions!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Wow, cindyvine, this is an educational piece! I wish you had taken over with me where my high school English teacher left off. I'd have finished a book long ago and gotten published. Now I know it was not just discipline holding me back. Thank you. Boy do my characters run away with my stories. Nothing finished yet, I have much work to do.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Glad to be of service, Miss Mirror!

    • ladyonthemirror profile image


      8 years ago from Indonesia

      your tips are very useful for me

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Myriad, as I said, the easy part was the writing, the difficult part is the marketing, so one has to do what one has to do. But, jokes aside, it's easiest to use what I've done as an example rather than just theorize.

    • Myriad profile image


      8 years ago from the bottom of your heart .. ie chennai!

      An invaluable asset to those who want to write , and A really smart way to publicise your book(s) as well ! You are very inspiring ! :) good luck ! :) ..

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      CMHypno, read some children's fantasy books and it'll get you inspired to finish your one.

      Just about it, I am a great advocate for locking up that inner editor until you've completed your first draft.

      Heart4theword, anybody can do it if they want it enough.

      Timely, thanks for bookmarking my hub.

    • Timely profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Great hub, thanks for spelling everything in 101 format:)

      One to bookmark!

    • heart4theword profile image


      8 years ago from hub

      This was an Informative Hub:) Thank you for sharing, don't know much about publishing. Appreciate you showing, that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to be a writer:) Thank you!

    • Just About It profile image

      Just About It 

      8 years ago from southern CA

      Great hub about writing and self publishing. I am working on a project and I am self-editing as I go. I will take your advice and stop that and save it for the end. Thanks for the info.

    • CMHypno profile image


      8 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Inspiring Hub on writing cindyvine. I have written 50,000 words of my children's fantasy fiction novel, know how I want to end it but have run out of writing steam (spend too much time on HubPages!!!)

      So thanks for reminding me about discipline - I'm going to set myself a target of 1,000 words a day and go for it!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      It's a pleasure Pink Hawk!

    • pinkhawk profile image


      8 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

      ...hmmm...what can i say!!!!--- really really great tips from your bursting ink!.. thank you very much ma'am!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Unchained Grace, three books floating? get onto it man!

      Thanks Online Scam Check

      Askjanbrass, let me rephrase that, it's easy to list a book on Amazon once you've written it. Writing it is hard work and not necessary an easy task, but the selling is difficult, that is where the hard work really starts.

      Sorry 'bout that coffee, David!

    • David Alan Carter profile image

      David Alan Carter 

      8 years ago


      'Bout spewed my coffee when I read... "It just flows. Yeah, like the tears down my cheeks when I try and read that crap."

      Great hub. Bookmarked it. --David

    • askjanbrass profile image


      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This just goes to show how behind the times I can be...I never knew that just anyone could sell their book on Amazon so easily. I understand it may not actually sell (because it won't be ranked, searched for, etc.), but this was still really interesting to read.

    • online scam check profile image

      online scam check 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Nice hub, great writing tips for aspiring authors.

    • Unchained Grace profile image

      Unchained Grace 

      8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      For the longest time, I've had the basic premise for three different books floating. Since coming to Hub Pages, I've found that while all three have good solid promise, one in particular stands out. It is the one where I pour it on in terms of the power and the passion and yes, I know the subject(s) very well. I lived it. I have a fulltime ministry wherein HubPages represents 5%-10% of the overall ministry, though it's been nagging at me lately. Realistically, I can put you right there wherein you can clearly feel the whole cycle of emotions and experiences of the two major characters. I just need time to prioritize to get at least one page per day written.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Dohn, yeah people that think writing a novel is a piece of cake are sadly mistaken. Good luck with fnding a publisher! And I know what you're saying about writing being the only thing that makes sense.

      Immartin, what else is there to say? Write that book!

    • lmmartin profile image


      8 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Good advice. What else is there to say?

    • dohn121 profile image


      8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I've been meaning to come over here to read this, Cindy and I'm glad I did. Writing my first novel was the toughest job I've ever endured. However, I kept at it and when I stopped, I went back to writing it after a 3 year hiatus. I hope to get at least signed by a publisher this year. The only thing that makes sense to me in this world is writing. It's the only thing I want to do.

      Thanks so much for sharing this. I hope others can learn from you and utilize your sage advice (and no, I'm no being a smartass!) Awesome work.


    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Petra, you can do one of two things. Find yourself a writing group where writers support and critique each other. You can find those on the internet. Secondly, put samples of your writing on hubpages and members here will comment.

      Philipo, thanks for stopping by.

      Pigfish, now I'm cracking the whip! Get writing!

    • pigfish profile image


      8 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thanks for making the impossible seem possible, cindyvine. You have inspired me to get busy!

    • Philipo profile image


      8 years ago from Nigeria

      Very informative. Thanks for sharing.

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you so much for writing this very informative hub. I very much appreciate your suggestions and find them extremely helpful (clear and to the point).

      Having prior experience as a published writer I can tell your advice is essential (from planning the plot to developing the characters, from writing daily to postponing the editing and so forth).

      The reason I joined the HP is precisely because I needed some feedback from other writers about the subject interest of my book and my ability to write in English (not my native language)

      Do you have any suggestions how to actually put together a group of HP critics willing to help each other with practical advice?

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Springboard, you are right. Stephen King is brilliant, a genius, and definitely the exception to the rule. He should not be held up as a model of how to do it, unfortunately, the majority of us don't have his genius.

    • Springboard profile image


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      You touched on some very good writing tips and points here, and one in particular was always a piece of advice I'd give as an editor. Write. Just write. Get your thoughts down on the paper. Don't stop to edit. Worry about the syntax and the form later. Just get the thoughts out and written, and do it for exactly the reason you stated. If you stop to edit you'll stop wtiting. Period. And then the flow is gone. The rhytm is lost.

      As far as outlines go, I think they are important for most writers. Stephen King rarely, if ever, uses them, and I don't think anyone can argue with his abilities as a writer, nor with the success he's acheived over the years churning out hundreds, if not thousands of stories.

      He is also, in many ways, the exception to the rule.

      Great hub, Cindy. And congrats on the book.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Its Angel, talking to hundreds of fighter pilots, I might like to do that!

      Ethel, write that novel, you can do it!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Would love to write a novel. I must surely have one in me by now lol

    • Its Angel profile image

      Its Angel 

      8 years ago from Charleston, SC

      Love it! all so true! my first book was about the Navy and the Marines I talked to hundreds of fighter pilots it seems! Your advice is on target and written beautifully with a sense of humor, thank you!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Violet Sun, many people do get a bit over-descriptive and if you look at bestselling authors, they keep their use of adjectives and adverbs to a minimum.

      Tony, life is all about learning and sharing, and sharing is caring.

      Duchess, imprison that inner editor of yours and just unleash your creative juices.

      Pam, get onto thos two books girl! You can do it!

      Alekhouse, I guess the teacher in me wants to help everybody to achieve their goal. We are here because we enjoy writing, and sometimes we just need a nudge in the right direction.

      Paradise, thanks for buying a copy of The Case of Billy B. If you like it, maybe you can write a review for me on Amazon and hubpages?

      Creativeone, am happy to help you on your writing journey.

      Diana, are you asking how long to do this hub or The Case of Billy B?

    • dianacharles profile image


      8 years ago from India

      Great hub CV. I have bookmarked has ME written all over it :P

      By the way how long did it take you to get this one out?? :)

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you cindyvine for a great hub and very good information, I will bookmark this page. Thank you for sharing. gospeed. creativeone59

    • Paradise7 profile image


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Cindy, I just bought your book and can't wait to read it. One click with Amazon, and well worth it. This story sounds like a good one and you're a PROVEN writer, to me.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Good hub, Cindy,...very informative with a lot of useful information. I am one of those who know how well you write and appreciate your unique voice..... Very generous of you to share so much with your readers.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Cindy, This in an excellent article with great suggestions, I have started writing 2 books actually about 2 or 3 years ago and just stopped, You give me inspiration. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      8 years ago

      Stumbled! You make some very good points here that will be hard for me to keep in mind. I too love to edit as I go. this will be a "novel" approach (pun intended)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Very, very good Hub on writing. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and wisdom like this. Bookmarked!

      Love and peace


    • VioletSun profile image


      8 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      You are a very good teacher! I am guilty, very guilty of revising what I write and yes, it interrupts the flow. I have printed your hub to read again offline. Your tips on not being overly descriptive is a good one too. Thank you Cindy, for your wonderful tips, I am learning!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Hey hello, Hello my pleasure!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a very informative and dow-to-earth hub.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Lorlie that was the hardest thing for me initially, turning off that inner editor, because then you keep revising and editing that one small chapter and never move forward.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Loved this advice, Cindy. Oh, boy, did you hit it home for my by mentioning the inner editor. She's relentless in my head, and quite the task master!

      This new writer also gives you the green button!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Hmrjmr1, I know when I first started writing, I tried to find tips on the internet and while there's stuff there, it did take time to try and find out answers to my questions, so I thought I'd share some of the answers here.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image


      8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Great Info Cindy straight up info good for us newbies...Def a green button push!


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