Q. How do I write the perfect novel?
A. The day that you realise the concept of a perfect novel is an industry joke is the day you earn your first Author Merit Badge. There is no such thing. That's not to say you shouldn't strive for perfection, of course, but remember that even multi-million dollar traditional authors don't write perfect novels. Why? Because they can't. No one can. Like any piece of art, a book is judged in the eye of the beholder. So focus on finishing, and don't worry about the rest.
Q. Is my book good enough to publish?
A. You would not believe how many young authors have asked me this, so I'll give you the same answer I gave them. Unless your book was written by a monkey bashing a keyboard, then yes. You have got an idea and you've got it down on paper. That is the most important, and possibly hardest step towards becoming a published author. Trust me when I say that I've seen worse books than yours raking in the bucks. Just get the thing done, and then let your editor polish it up. That's what she's there for.
Q. I have an idea for a story! Is it good?
A. Fantastic! Write it. I can't tell you if it's good, because stories always sound terrible when you try to summarise them in short format. Any story is a good story if you write it well, so the only way to know for sure whether it's going to be a good story is to write it.
Q. Will you read my book and tell me if you think it's good?
A. No, sorry. I simply don't have time. If you need someone to do that, I recommend friends and family, or looking for a critique partner.
Q. Will you write my book for me?
A. I do not currently offer ghost writing services. You can probably find someone on a freelancing website like fiverr.com, but keep in mind that ghostwriting is an extremely expensive service. Nobody will write your book for free.
Q. Do I really need an editor?
A. Definitely, even if it's just a friend who has a good eye for grammar. When you're writing, you get too close to the book to actually see the little mistakes, or even the really BIG mistakes. An extra pair of eyes can make all the difference. While your book doesn't have to be perfect, readers will notice if it's full of mistakes, and that will hurt your long-term success. Remember, readers talk – and bad reviews never go away.
Q. Can you give me any writing tips?
A. Not really. Everyone's writing technique and method is different. The best advice I can give you is, "stop listening to advice and learn what's best for you." As a new author, everyone is going to want to give you advice, and a lot of it is going to conflict. Ignore it all and just write. No one knows what's best for you, except you. There is no right or wrong way to write a book - unless you're not writing, in which case you are doing it wrong.
One motivational tip I can give you is to make sure you are writing every day. Set yourself a word count, and make time every day to sit down and nut out a few paragraphs. Don't wait until you're in the mood, or you'll never get anything done. Force yourself to do it, and you'll be surprised how easy it becomes. If you're not confident, set your word count low - say, 500 words. That's about two pages of a standard paperback. It's not a lot, but it adds up.
If you write 500 words every day, in 100 days you'll have 50,000 words - that's about the length of a standard romance novel.
In 200 days, you'll have 100,000 words. That's a little longer than The Hobbit.
In 400 days, you'll have 200,000 words. Now you're longer than The Fellowship of the Ring.
It doesn't matter if your words aren't perfect, because you can always go back and fix them later. Worry about getting them down on paper, then polish them later. You can always edit a story. You can't edit a story that hasn't been written!
Q. Any technical tips?
A. Oh, I do have one of those! When I was writing The Survivors, I originally had dates on the flashbacks and flash-forwards, until someone pointed out that putting dates in a book simply dates your work and will make people give you the side-eye in the future. I mean, look at George Orwell's 1984. It's a classic, but boy is it dated! Or in movie terms, try The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Both awesome movies, but the fact that they repeatedly talk about the date when Judgement Day is supposed to happen makes you hyper-aware of just how old they are. If you can get away without putting a date in (and unless your book is specifically historical, you usually can), then do it. You'll be glad you did in the long run!