The Killing Woods is Lucy Christopher's third book, published by Chicken House in the UK, and is officially available to buy from October 3rd. Here's a summary to tell you more:
Emily's dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl in the woods behind her house, the place she played in as a child. She's sure he's innocent, but what did happen? Determined to find out - and afraid of what she might discover - Emily seeks out the boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But Damon Hillary has his own secrets about the dangerous games that are being played in the dark.
Thanks to Lucy for writing this guest post for me, and I hope you enjoy her writing tips!
Lucy's Writing Tips
1). Just Do It. Just Write. Writing is a job like any other; you have to put the time in. If you wait for flashes of inspiration, you’ll be waiting a long time. Make yourself do it. It can be a slog, a struggle, a trial. It can be unpleasant sometimes, but that’s just the way it is, and you’ll just have to push through.
2). Do your research. In my research for Flyaway, I got a job at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. For Stolen, I spent weeks in the Great Sandy Desert. For The Killing Woods, I hiked through the jungle in Nigeria and the Forest of Dean. It’s important to understand what you’re writing about. It’s like that old advice, ‘Write What You Know,’ though I suppose in this case it’s more ‘Know What You Write.’
3). Think of your characters as real people – people who you could go and have a coffee with and actually discuss real stuff. Don’t write them two dimensionally, or just because you need them to fulfill a plot function in the novel - if you do that they can’t surprise you, and it will be far more boring (for you and the reader!)
4). While we’re on the subject of characters - create vulnerable characters. Again, these kinds of characters are more interesting (for you and the reader), and you can do more with them. They have a greater journey to make. What’s more, character vulnerabilities can create danger and a sense of tension within a novel.
5). Create protagonists who have something they need to learn. In the story when they learn it, they’ll be stronger for it. I try to develop protagonists that develop and learn, that grow.
6). Character can also be plot. The need for a character to learn or understand something gives them a goal – and a goal in a story provides a plot. With The Killing Woods, my characters were trying to discover who killed Ashlee Parker, but were also trying to understand how someone could have killed her. At the heart of all my novels is the plight of the main character: what the characters need to learn powers this.
7). Edit. It’s where the real sweaty work of writing exists. I re-wrote Flyaway ten times. The Killing Woods was rewritten even more times than this. Editing really does need to be treated like work. Whereas I think the first draft of putting creative works down on the page can be treated more casually and creatively, I think editing should be handled like a day job. You get down to it and you sweat it out: you move the mechanics of the novel around until it works.
8). My greatest piece of writing advice comes from the wonderful author David Almond. He told me he keeps a piece of paper near his computer with the words Be Brave on it. This is perfect advice. The process of writing can sometimes be as much about the belief that you can do it – that you can get to the end of that difficult first draft - as the actual writing itself. Keep the faith and get to the end - then, and only then, evaluate what you’ve done.
9). Read lots. This seems an obvious point to me. How can you know anything about writing without engaging with how other writers have developed this art form? What’s more, read what is being published in your field. If you write YA, read YA. Learn the conventions. Learn what sells. Learn what people respond to.
10). I’m going to repeat point one again. Just Do It. Get on with it. Stop reading this blog and get back to it.