Guest Post: Iain King's Ten Steps to Becoming a Successful Novelist

Monday, 8 February 2016
Today I am sharing a guest post from Bookouture's Iain King who lists his ten steps to becoming a successful novelist. Iain's second conspiracy thriller novel, Last Prophecy of Rome, was released on January 28th and you can read my review of it on the blog very soon.

An ancient empire. A terrifying threat to the World’s Superpower. Only one man can stop it. 

ROME: Maverick military historian Myles Munro is on holiday with girlfriend and journalist Helen Bridle. He’s convinced a bomb is about to be detonated at the American Embassy.

NEW YORK: A delivery van hurtling through Wall Street, blows up, showering the sky with a chilling message: America is about to be brought down like the Roman Empire.

Juma, an African warlord, set free by the Arab Spring, plans to make it happen.

When a US Senator is taken hostage, a chilling chain of events begins, and Myles finds himself caught in a race against time to stop Juma. But, he’s not prepared for the shocking truth that the woman he once loved, Juma’s wife, Placidia, has now become a terrorist.

An electrifying edge-of-your-seat thriller that will have you coming back for more. 


Iain King's Ten Steps to Becoming a Successful Novelist

1. Ponder why you’re writing
Are you trying to make a point – perhaps something personal, or political, or artistic?  Is it just a hobby?  If you’re hoping to make money or become famous, there are more reliable routes - like buying lottery tickets.  Even if you don’t know why you’re writing, pondering will give you a better sort of ignorance.

2. Practice
You’ve probably done this already: in the social media age, many people are typing 2,000+ words a day without realising it.  Perhaps you write as a day job, or as a hobby.  Whichever way you practice, make sure you can make sentences flow before you put lots of them together in a book.  And don’t expect your first book to be your best.

3. Experiment
Experimenting taught me it was easier to write night scenes in the dark, and that after about 2,500 words in a day my words turned to mush.  I also learned I can’t write comedy (except by accident, when I’m trying to write physical romance).  What will you learn from your experiments?

4. Respect the reader  
For lots of reasons - not just ‘because they’re worth it’.

5. Have a really good idea
Think about the last really good book you read.  What made it special?  Don’t try to re-do an old format slightly better; plausible characters doing interesting things isn’t enough.  Make your book unique.  Think how people will describe it to others three weeks after they finished it, and give them something amazing to talk about.

6. Map it out first
Most good books are complicated.  To avoid having to re-write your novel lots of times, decide what’s going to happen in each chapter.  Understand how your book will end before your writing begins.  (I know it’s tempting just to get going, but trust me – I’ve been there: when you’ve written two-thirds and you realise you need to bring in a new main character from the beginning, switch scenes around and make a baddie not-so-bad, you’ll wish you planned it out…)

7. Write your first draft quickly
It makes your words flow, and your sentences smooth.  Coffee is a good lubricant for this.

8. Review it slowly
Every chapter, paragraph, sentence and word needs to be the best it can.  So go through your novel chapter-by-chapter, checking every element of your book.  If something is neither entertaining nor essential for the plot, then delete it.  Re-order words to minimise how many times the reader needs to change the object they’re thinking about.  Then leave your novel for a while, come back to it fresh, and review it all again.

9. Get a good editor
Excellent books work at several levels, and it’s hard to keep an eye on all of them at once.  Even if you have perfect vision, you’ll focus on one thing to miss something else; creative types often have the worst eyes for detail.  A good editor is more than just an error-spotter.  They should be a friendly critic.  And remember: praise may keep you writing, but only criticism can help you improve.

10. Be lucky 
There’s already more talent out there than you can possibly imagine.  Most talent goes nowhere.  You need luck to succeed - lots of it.  The luckiest people are those who simply enjoy writing, because just by completing their book they will have become a successful novelist.

About Iain King

Iain King has worked in warzones, politics, teaching and journalism. In Afghanistan he served alongside both of Britain’s most senior casualties, and in more frontline bases than any other civilian. He is one of the youngest people ever to be made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE).

Once a student at Oxford University and later a Fellow at Cambridge, he has given talks at the UK’s Defence Academy and lectures to the Royal United Services Institute. He now leads the UK Government’s research unit on conflict, and writes a column about military history for a popular monthly magazine. Iain King has also been a professional speechwriter for high-profile figures, a journalist, and a report writer to the UN Security Council.

He is already the author of two very successful non-fiction books, Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo, How to Make Good Decisions and Be Right All the Time. The Myles Munro books are his first works of fiction.

Iain wrote his first novel Secrets of the Last Nazi almost entirely in secret - a double- life he kept from both his wife and children, and his employers and coworkers - until just days before publication, when a friend accidentally broke his cover with an innocuous post on Facebook, which caused mayhem.

Links:
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1jAc5cI
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1IqGrKG
www.facebook.com/iainkingsbooks
www.twitter.com/IainBKing
http://iainbking.com/

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