Okay, so by writing this, I am by no means advocating there is a way to do away with all those critical months and years (the ones I myself continue to go through) that come with making all of us better writers, but if I can think back to my first mistakes and help shorten your beginner learning curve, all the better. FYI, all of this is my very own personal opinion and I am sure that many others may agree or disagree so please use it for what it’s worth.
As I’ve learned to write and improve my writing, I’ve gathered tips that I’ve felt really do help a great deal. My recommendations is that you read them before you start writing and you read them throughout the edit process and try to apply them in the best way possible. Hopefully they will in some way prepare that manuscript for the next few “set of eyes” (beta reader, agent and then editor). So here they are:
- Show instead of tell. I know Grimm’s Brothers did the whole “tell” thing and left their own legacy, but most readers these days demand more of an experience when they read. Where you notice you are telling, turn this into showing and how the character is feeling.
- Eliminate overused words like “that”, “as”, “from”, etc. I could give you a long list but really you should tailor it to you. Read your work aloud as it helps a whole lot in hearing these. I know that is a pain after you’ve been staring at it forever but you know that whole no pain no gain saying, definitely true here although used in a different context.
- Increase tension. Okay, so this is easier said than done but I’ve recommended him before and I’ll recommend him again, Donald Maass. Read his books as they are a huge help on building tension. Basically you should be asking yourself with each scene if you are doing your ultimate to push the tension. Doesn’t mean it has to be action packed, but if everything is hunky dory in your scene sand it’s not the end of the story, something has to disrupt the peace or you’ve got a slow book on your hands (most likely).
- Find your pace. If that is scene and then sequel every other chapter, great. Whatever it is, make it a rhythm and don’t bounce your reader around the place (e.g. sequel, scene, sequel, sequel, sequel, scene, etc.). Sequels are really the slower reflective parts while scenes are where something is happening that is impacting the story.
- Replace passive to infinitives with more active verbs (I just recently got told this one). Instead of saying, “Sarah reached out to grab him,” try “Sarah grabbed him.” The latter is stronger and really the first one only should be used if it is an attempt that is unsuccessful.
Well, that’s it for today. I hope these tips are somewhat helpful for you beginners and even you veteran writers. I, for one, can always use a bit of reminding.
Happy writing this week!