Regular readers of this blog will already be familiar with Laura Marshall – whose psychological thriller Friend Request became an instant bestseller when it was published last year. Laura took one of our London-based creative writing courses, and rapidly went on to secure representation with Curtis Brown agent Felicity Blunt and UK publication with Sphere (part of Little Brown). A US publication deal with Grand Central followed swiftly on, and Friend Request has since been translated and published in a further 13 languages. With her second novel, Three Little Lies out now, Laura has shared with us her Three Little
Lies writing tips:
I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert, and the best writing advice is probably to ignore all the writing advice and just write. However, if pressed, this is what I would say:
1. Know what your book is about
This is one that gets trotted out time and again, but only because it’s so important: know, and be able to succinctly say, what your book is about. One of the reasons agents and publishers liked Friend Request so much is that it’s really easy to sum it up in a sentence: “It’s a thriller about a woman who gets a Facebook friend request from a girl she bullied at school – a girl who’s been dead for twenty-five years” – BOOM! You should be able to answer the question, “What’s your book about?” in a sentence, or two at the most. Of course there’s always going to be more to say about it (and you’ll wanna!) but publishers and agents love a pithy “elevator pitch”. If you get this pitch right, it can take you from impressing an agent – to them impressing a publisher with it, to the publisher using it to sell your book to retailers – and the retailer using it to sell to readers (the tag line on the cover of Friend Request is “Maria wants to be friends. But Maria is dead. Isn’t she?”). I knew nothing of this when I had the idea for Friend Request, so I was incredibly lucky to have happened upon a “hook” – but every book has one. Make sure you know what yours is.
2. Read, especially in the genre or style you are writing in
I love psychological thrillers and have been reading them for years, so I was never going to try to write any other kind of book. I’ve read so many that I think the structure had osmosed (if that’s even a word) itself into my brain.
3. Don’t get hung up on making your first draft perfect while you’re still writing it
I know there are people that prefer to edit as they go, and obviously if that works best for you, that’s fine. But for me, if I try and make every sentence perfect, and keep going back over things, it stops me moving forward with the story. When I’m writing a first draft I don’t even read back over what I’ve written the day before. I just try to plough on and get the thing written, and then (hopefully) I’ve got something to work with.
Get Three Little Lies here.
If you’re writing a novel and are interested in taking one of our selective entry creative writing courses, like Laura did, we are currently open for applications to our Autumn 3-month courses – in London (which is what Laura did), or online.
Get advice on how to write a novel from our 6-week online courses designed to help you at 3 stages of the novel writing process whether you’re starting out, finishing your first draft or editing and pitching your novel.