Four Tips Every Serious Writer Needs to Know
March 28, 2015
I recently asked Jennifer Slattery, an author and good friend of mine, to give me four tips that all writers can use. She writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, was released last summer and her latest, When Dawn Breaks, released in December. Here are the ideas that Jennifer has provided us.If you are serious about writing, you will take note of each of them.
Anyone can pound words onto the screen, but it takes skill and practice to craft an engaging story. To do that, writers need to:
- Give our readers credit.
In our desire to make our readers understand us, catch any foreshadowing, and correctly read intended emotions, we may be tempted to over-explain. And repeat ourselves.
There’s nothing worse than reading something numerous times, even if it’s reworded. Give your readers credit and expect them to pick up on your message the first time. Most of them will and will feel quite proud at having done so.
- Be original.
This applies to big-picture content as well as words and phrases. Avoid clichés and find unique ways to state things instead. I’ve read about way too many stomach flutters and racing pulses. The occasional stomach upset is okay, but skilled writers go beyond the common descriptions, perusing psychological sites and body language books to find other equally telling, less clichéd physiological responses.
Keep your readers guessing. If they know what we’re going to say or how the conflict will resolve before they finish the book, why should they finish it? This can be difficult for romance writers. When crafting a romance, the novelist needs to move the story toward an emotionally satisfying ending. But you still need to avoid eye-glossing predictability. As your hero and heroine move toward happily-ever-after, throw a few obstacles in their way. Create a reader expectation then flip things. Give readers a reason to turn that next page… otherwise they won’t.
- Address a felt need.
If you want people to talk about your books, articles, and blog posts (i.e., if you want to generate a book-selling buzz), you need to touch their heart. What do people long for and how can you bring that into your writing? Have one of your main characters struggle with something we can all relate to. For example, your hero could be nearing a mid-life crisis. What does he need? Purpose? A dream to believe in? Something to live for? Or perhaps your heroine is lonely, or lugging around baggage and longing for freedom.
But again, don’t slam your reader over the head with this. Instead, weave hints throughout your novel, perhaps a glance toward a fun-loving couple, a tear after reading an emotive poem, a sifting through old mementoes.
Remember, you’ve got an entire novel to introduce your characters to your readers. By itself, each clue may seem insignificant, but over the course of a story, they paint a vivid picture.
- Make sure every word packs a punch.
The best writing is clear and concise. Why take two paragraphs to say something that can be stated in one? Why use ten words when five will do? For example, spoke softly can become whispered. Nodded her head simply nodded. Do we need to know a smile “graced her lips”? Where else would a smile appear? On her foot?
Speaking of clarity, whenever possible, use words that evoke images or stir emotions. For example, don’t tell us he sat in the shade of the tree. Name the tree so we can see it, and if she’s flustered, have her “plop down”. If she’s sad, maybe she “slid to the ground”.
Great writing takes work, knowledge, and perseverance. Select each word, each plot or idea, carefully, and take the time to get to know your reader. Address a felt need and do so with creativity, immersing your reader in your book and giving them every reason to turn that next page. Doing so will add punch and emotive value to your work which in turn will create a loyal readership.