1. Show, don’t tell (0:31)
2. Don’t always go with the first idea that pops into your head (4:09)
3. Consider the reader’s experience at all times (5:55)
4. Give each character a specific way of speaking. (7:52)
5. It can’t just happen. It has to happen in an interesting way. (9:12)
6. Work out your ending. (Try to figure out what your ending is before you write the story.) (11:57)
7. Think about what the reader will expect, and do something different (13:54)
8. Beware of the passive protagonist. (16:08)
9. Give the readers information just before they need it. (19:08)
10. If it’s not working be willing to toss it out. (22:07)
A friend of mine shared this video for me and while it’s talking about comic books, I thought the advice was fantastic to also share with regular print writers. The video goes pretty in-depth and I’m not going to cover all the topics, but I would like to highlight my favorites, and these are going to be in a different order, so forgive me if I jump here.
Work out your ending. (Try to figure out what your ending is before you write the story.)
For me, I’m not talking about the ending of a book. I’m talking about the ending to a series. So many times I’ve picked up books that, while they are fantastic and incredible reads, I always feel like by books 2 and 3 they have lost direction. As if they started the series with no clear purpose in mind. They wrote the first book and were surprised that it did well – and they had to continue.
I am not sure if my series is going to be three books or maybe four – but I have a direction. I know where my story is supposed to end. I know what will happen to Maxine. Now, obviously, of course, I haven’t worked out the finer details. But there’s still bullet points that I have in mind to hit.
I feel it’s a disservice to your readers if you are not writing with a clear purpose. No one wants a book to end, and it’s great to make your readers feel that way, but the ending must happen. That is what the book is leading up to. The ending should be the main point of why you are writing the story in the first place.
If it’s not working be willing to toss it out.
I could probably compose five books based on what I had to throw out. It’s tragic. Sometimes there’s a scene that you really wanted to write, but either it doesn’t fit with the story or when you’re writing it, it feels wrong and incohesive. It might be time to place it on the chopping block.
And don’t think that just because you spent hours or months on the scene that it should be exempt. I have went to the coffee shop to spend five hours writing. Come home and detox and return to it and highlight all five hours of that work and hit the delete button. Does that mean I wasted five hours? Not at all – I found a way that it doesn’t work and I feel all the better for it. It’s now out of my head and hopefully I’ve seen a better way.
Nor do I care how wonderful the scene is. I have a whole scene of shape shifters from my book that I just had to cut out. It was a fantastic scene, and fun, with a lot of great characters. However the length of my book was too great and I realized, as great as it was, it added nothing to overall plot. I removed the scenes and I’ve never felt the book has suffered from it. Oh, but don’t worry. I will get my shape shifters in the story someday. They just no longer worked.
Being a writer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a writer because you write. It also means you’re a writer because you know when to delete.
It can’t just happen. It has to happen in an interesting way.
I live and die by these words. In the video this quote made me smile the widest. I feel this and #7 “Think about what the reader will expect, and do something different” go hand in hand.
My character is not going to enter a city and just enter a city. No. Maxine enters and it’s an experience, and the better experience the better your readers will appreciate you. If your character is sitting at a dinner party, your reader is going to expect it’s a dinner party and there will be conversation – make it an unexpected conversation.
This is the best way to also perk up a boring section of your story. If it’s boring go back to it and wonder what will make this more interesting? In one of my chapters Maxine is sitting in a room with a bunch of Sorcerers speaking around her. Not a lot of action going on. And it’s a very oppressive feel. The only way to make it interesting (and unexpected) – Maxine throws sarcastic comments in her mind. Things she would never say out loud. She’s a snarky teenager. It makes the scene more interesting, unexpected for the reader, and adds even more depth and color to her character.
I will still always feel that David Eddings, my favorite author, did this the best in all of his novels. In Redemption of Althalus, Althalus doesn’t just go to a tower to steal a book and meet some impenetrable magic. No. He goes to a tower and meets a talking cat.