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Mastering Your Manuscript: Top 5 Essential Tips for Aspiring Christian Authors

Mastering Your Manuscript: Top 5 Essential Tips for Aspiring Christian Authors by Gillian Leggat

Faced with the vast range of titles in all sorts of different genres, how do you even begin to write a book that people will want to read? What can you contribute to the world of literature that hasn’t already been done? How can you be original…unique…interesting?

The good news for us writers is this: a fellow writer once said: ‘There are no new ideas; only new ways of presenting them. I would agree. For example, the number of ideas for stories is finite. There are only so many plot arcs. But the structure of the stories keeps getting re-organised. So don’t try to invent a brand-new plot. You can’t. It’s all been done before. But never fear. You can still be original. It’s not what you write but how you write it that makes all the difference.

So how DO you write a publishable manuscript then?

Tip number one: Get started

Don’t dither or procrastinate; whatever you do, don’t keep feeding your head with negative nonsense. You can be a writer, even a published one if you try hard enough. The only difference between a published and an unpublished writer is – the unpublished writer gave up. So put on your writing hat and begin.

Tip number two: Persevere

Once you’ve begun, keep at it. Write often. And persevere. Write every day if you can, no matter what. If your schedule doesn’t permit it, set aside particular times for writing, where you go to your favourite writing place. Don’t make excuses. No matter how busy your life is, if being an author is important to you, you will find the time to write. You put aside time for other tasks, some of them very mundane. So why wouldn’t you set aside time for something you’re passionate about? Although a challenging discipline, even the mere process of writing can be very rewarding: you’re exercising your brain cells, exploring possibilities, and going on an amazing creative journey that so many others have gone on before you. It would be a shame to throw in the towel when you’ve barely begun this journey. My father once told me some facts about Thomas Edison that I’ve never forgotten. The story goes that his assistant said to him one day: “Mr. Edison, we have now tried 365 experiments and all of them have failed. We haven’t had any results.”

“But we’ve had wonderful results,” Edison reportedly replied. “We now know 365 experiments that don’t work!” He and his assistant then persevered, trying many more experiments until, voila, one day, they finally did an experiment which did actually work. They had discovered electric light.

Although this anecdote may not be directly relevant to your writing pursuits, it illustrates perseverance's value. Don’t be concerned about your failures. Just keep refining your writing skills.

Tip number three: Don’t keep comparing yourself to other writers

As a writer, you have a unique style. The way you express yourself is not the same as any other writer’s style. Celebrate this. Who knows, you may even start a new trend. Think about James Joyce’s lack of punctuation in his famous novel, Ulysses. Who would have thought that his unusual work of art would become such an important part of our literary history?

Keep enjoying your writing. Keep editing your work and improving your writing. But realise that your particular style may be a gift to the world of literature.

Tip number four: Plan your manuscript carefully

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you must structure your manuscript carefully. Some of the methods you might use are: story-boards, chapter outlines or multiple spider diagrams in the case of fiction.

Timelines, chronological sequencing or detailed plans for a particular period in the case of non-fiction.

Whatever method you use, it’s good to have a rough idea of where you’re going before you begin your journey – even if the details change, which they often will.

Tip number five: Add conflict/ tension to your writing

Readers like to be kept on the edge of their seats. This tip is more relevant to fiction, but even non-fiction pieces will be more intriguing if something is at stake. So make sure you structure your writing to build tension and drama, adding interest to your piece, whether it is fiction or non-fiction.

Above all, enjoy your writing journey. The journey itself can be ultra-rewarding if you have a positive attitude. And how amazing it is when a publisher recognises the fruits of your hard labours, and you can finally hold your completed book in your hand.

Happy writing!

Breath of God by Gillian Leggat
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