If you were paying attention, here are some of the things you will have learned at the LitFest in March. If you missed them this time, there are year-round events that you can attend, and there’s always the EmiratesLitFest 2020 to look forward to.

The Writing Life

There’s a process much recommended in Neuro Linguistic Programing (NLP) known as ‘modelling.’ No, it’s not about catwalks and looking pretty. It’s about copying or reproducing strategies that work. The LitFest author interviews often reveal to us the preferred writing routines of our favourite authors: how they organise their writing lives.

There are authors who write every day, some early in the morning before they go to work, some late at night after the children are in bed. There are authors who write for a set number of hours. There are authors who write a specific number of words each day.  Some write in cafes, while others write in cupboards. Some need a view to ‘inspire’ them, some prefer a brick wall. Try ‘modelling’ the writing routine of these authors. What works for one writer may not work for another, but in the process, you may discover when, where, and how you are most productive.

Reading Out Loud

Whether you like it or not, sooner or later someone will ask you to read your writing out loud. How many authors at the LitFest did you hear doing exactly that? When they read, did the language flow, and were you gripped by their reading? Reading badly can shake your listeners’ belief in your writing. You are your best advertisement for your own work, so practise now at your writers’ group or at home to read clearly, with feeling, and without rushing and leaving your audience behind. You need to relish — verbally — every word you write. Needless to say, this is especially important for poets.

You should also read your work out loud during the writing process. Yes, your family will think it strange that you are talking to yourself, so make sure you shut the door, and lower the volume. As you read, you will notice how many words you missed out in your urgency to write. You will also notice that some of your sentences are so clunky that you could choke on them. Reading aloud helps you hear what you need to re-write.

What’s Trending?

The books we buy are very often the books we are told to buy, because they are said to be breathtaking, groundbreaking, or fashionable. If you do not read what everyone else is reading, you may experience the reader’s ‘fear of missing out,’ a kind of literary FOMO. The LitFest will open up a world of choices for you. Take the opportunity to try something new. If you always read novels, then perhaps you can read some short stories. If you always read fiction, perhaps you can try some non-fiction, or poetry. And, if you always read adult fiction, take a look at what children and young adults are reading.

The wide range of books on offer at the LitFest gives us an idea of what agents and publishers are looking for. You don’t need to follow these trends but, as writers, you do need to be informed by them. Remember also that what is trending in Dubai may not be trending in the rest of the world. Keep an eye on the bestseller lists from sources such as — amongst others — The New York Times, The London Review of Books, WHSmith, and The Bookseller. You don’t want the disappointment of finding out that the book you wanted to write has in fact already been written.

How Did The First Book Get Published?

While many well-established authors attend the LiftFest every year, there are also a large number of debut novelists. How did they get from being unknown and unpublished to being flavor of the month? You need to listen to them carefully and map the steps they took. You’ll discover that writing is hard work. It involves re-thinks and re-writes, and many many rejections, but at the end of the process the satisfaction of seeing your finished novel in the bookshops is immense.

There is no overnight success. Very often the first novel an author wrote may not have been the first novel of theirs to be published. Completing your first novel proves to you that you have the stamina and the determination to see your project through to the end. Keep sending out your first manuscript, but don’t wait to start work on your second novel. You have a lifetime of writing ahead of you, so don’t waste it on one book. Move on. You can re-visit your first book at any time and revise it, but don’t let it drag you into a literary ditch. We’d like to see you interviewed at the LitFest before you are too old to climb on stage.

Where Ideas Come From

If you’ve ever found yourself saying, ‘I want to write, but I don’t know what to write about,’ then you definitely need to sit in on some author interviews to hear how they got their ideas.

The chances are strong that if you get even one idea about what to write, you will get many others. You need to hang in there until you get that first idea. Write everything down, every flicker of an idea, in your writers’ notebook and review those ideas on a regular basis. Miraculously, they multiply… after which you may find you have too many ideas and don’t know where to start. Choose one and stick with it to the end. Writers don’t give up.

Written by Janet Olearski

Janet Olearski is an author and writing coach, and the founder of the Abu Dhabi Writers’ Workshop.  She advises you not to mislay the key if you choose to write in a cupboard. Read more at: http://www.janetolearski.com