Writing is like breathing to me. I’m not Stephen King, nor will I ever be, but I’m working toward making myself a name. Working on ways to make myself better. Not very long ago, I had an editor go through one of my works, and she tore it to shreds. I told her I was ready, but initially it felt like someone stuck a dull knife in my chest and dug out my heart. These days I actually look forward to the criticism because I know it makes not just my writing but me better. So today, if I can save anyone from that gut-stabbing feeling, I would like to try.
When you open a book, you want to fall into that world and feel like you are living it with the protagonist or antagonist, whichever point of view (pov) the author chooses to use. When you describe something to someone instead of saying, “He was really mad.” Say, “A vein popped on his forehead, he clenched his fists, and crimson rose from his neck to his face.”
The basis for this section is to learn how to show and not tell. Show the reader the world they are falling into. Don’t just tell them the sky was gray.
The sky was overcast and shadows fell under the drooping trees. The world was asleep. Even the forest animals knew it was time to rest.
See the difference.
Facial expression and body posture goes a long way, too. If you don’t give such clues, you’ll only have talking heads. I picture bobble heads yapping to one another. Make them real. Take Elvis out of the dashboard.
Write what you love and what you know. If you don’t know about the subject, do some general research on it and then go from there. (Remember not to plagiarize though. That can get you in some trouble. Not sure what plagiarism is, google it!) There’s nothing worse than a reader putting down your novel because you didn’t do your research. And they do catch small things that just don’t sound quite right. Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to go into too much detail because that will kill the flow of your story and bore the reader. Just enough, but not too little is my general rule.
Every paragraph or scene has a mood. The way I stay in that mood as I write is to find some music that inspires me for that scene. If a guy is flying down Interstate 85 at breakneck speeds, you could find some heavy rock music to listen to, to bring out that feeling of wind blowing through his hair, the pavement passing him by, the road noise drowned out. If a girl is longing for her lover who died five years ago, Within Temptation has some really good tracks. “Memories” is one of my favorite. If a girl wants a guy to show her some attention, “All I Need” is another good one. Piano music is another good outlet. You get the picture. Now, moving on to grammar.
Grammar and Punctuation
The best writers don’t always have the best grammar. If you have access to Microsoft Word or another good writing program, take advantage of it. It may not always be accurate though. When it gives you autocorrects, make sure you read the options it gives you.
When you punctuate, such as adding commas, for instance, you allow the reader to pause and see the clarity of your sentences. Sometimes a long sentence can get wordy and comma’s help to keep the clauses separated.
When punctuating dialog, the punctuation of the dialog sentence always comes before the end quotation. Example: “Don’t tell the story; show it,” I said to my readers.
My editor told me to write my novel and then cut out almost a third of the story by editing down sentences. If they don’t keep the flow moving or have a real place in the story then cut them out.
If you have trouble editing yourself, an amazing way—and also quite fun— is to have someone read your work aloud. You can hear the discrepancies in the sentences and hear the mistakes for yourself. This will also give your “reader” a chance to ask you questions about your story when something wasn’t quite clear. Reading aloud is a great way to get other readers interested in your work and get the word spread that you are an aspiring writer. If you don’t have a reader, read to yourself, but remember: Aloud.
Next time, some tips on how to overcome writer’s block…