March 9, 2015
Tips for the Beginner and the Rest of Us
So, you’ve got your blank screen before you, you’ve got a tremendous idea for the “next great American novel,” you’ve got your dictionary, thesaurus, Elements of Style, and your Chicago Manual of Style ready. You rub your hands together, blow on your fingernails, and say, “Look out, world. Here comes brilliance!”
If you’ve never tried writing anything but eight-line poems or a letter to the newspaper’s editor once in a while, there are a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you not only write well but also get published. You might not be ready for a novel; perhaps, a 1200-word fiction story or article would be the best way to start.
Whether you’re determined to write a novel or start with shorter stuff, the tips I want to share will help. They’ll also be brief and to the point. In other words, I will not expound with long, convoluted sentences, which is one of the tips I have for you.
Tips to Help You Write Well:
1. Don’t write long, convoluted sentences. Write short, poignant sentences with very few flowery words and long descriptive paragraphs. Today’s readers won’t stand for your showing off for pages of narration that will bore them to death and cause them to set a match to your work.
2. Avoid the exclamation mark! One per page is often too many! Use clever words to emphasize emotion and action! Stay away from the exclamation mark! Get the point?
3. Even if you’re writing fiction, be accurate. Do your homework. If you’re describing a fire scene, make sure you visit your local fire company and get all the details of what fire fighting is all about. For WHISPERING HOPE, the seventh volume of my Keystone Stables Series, I did just that. I had a barn fire scene, so I went to a local fireman and interviewed him, asking for all the details I needed to write the scene accurately.
4. Stay away from fancy words. Go for simple active verbs, not descriptive adverbs and impressive adjectives. Instead of “The thin and tired old woman in her seventies walked limply and lazily” try “The haggard senior citizen hobbled.”
5. Avoid figures of speech or overused clichés. They often distract your readers from the real core meaning of your sentence or paragraph. It just makes your reader think you were too lazy to put your own words together to write a clever line. So don’t put the cart before the horse or your readers will think your writing stinks like a skunk, and they’ll abandon ship. The only thought they’ll have concerning your story is “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
6. Try to stay in the background, like, invisible. A skillful writer will “show” not “tell” his story and have his/her readers engrossed in the plot, identifying with the character or theme and will not give the author a second thought. Not until the last page. Then the readers are free to exclaim, “Wow! What a story!” (And with the exclamation marks!)
With these few basic points in mind, go ahead, tiger. Tackle that keyboard and crank out that manuscript. Who knows? You might just be working on a best seller!