So you want to be a writer?
Have aspirations of fame, fortune, and movie-rights.
That’s fine. We all do. But there’s more to writing than signing books and bookstore readings. Use these tips to help you write your novel and land that movie deal.
In last week’s blog, we covered the planning phase. In this post, we look at the act of writing and editing a manuscript.
To state the obvious, writing a book involves A LOT OF WRITING. It’s the best way to develop as a writer. The more you write, the more confident you are in your ability. This confidence comes from becoming more conscious of what works and what doesn’t. In essence, you learn from your mistakes and continue growing.
Part of maturing includes trusting your instincts. William Faulkner believed no-one could tell a writer how to write a story. Only the writer knows his or her story. You have to trust your gut and go with your instincts.
The fact is, there are no rules for writing. Dedicate yourself to mastering your craft. Get comfortable with the elements of writing: plot, voice, narration, voice, grammar – then do with them what you will to suit your needs. Take risks, be creative, you’re a writer after all.
When the writing is going well, the story will take you to some interesting and unexpected places. And therein lies the joy of writing.
- First lines matter – make the reader stand up and take notice and keep the momentum going.
- Show don’t tell – place the reader in the moment – the odors and sounds and the way something feels.
- Don’t use unnecessary words. Keep the story flowing with tight, impactful writing.
- Write the unfamiliar – take the reader on an adventure.
- Give yourself time, and a place to write – adhering to a writing schedule keeps writer’s block at bay.
- Make your characters come alive with their own unique voices, mannerisms, and characteristics. Let them be interesting, ugly, obsessive, or timid – anything other than a cardboard cutout.
- Make punctuation work for you. Keep sentence structure clean, easy to understand.
The difference between a manuscript landing a top publishing deal or landing in the garbage most often comes down to editing – as painful a process as any root canal.
Editing brings a story into focus, draws out emotion, heightens tension and keeps the story from bogging down into an unreadable mess.
To edit, one must be willing to slash words and paragraphs and scenes and even characters the writer has grown quite fond of. To do this, one must have a strong resolve and a critical eye. The ability to critique one’s work objectively is something that is learned with practice.
A fresh pair of eyes helps if the reader is able to give useful, actionable feedback, is trustworthy and familiar with the genre. Also, reading passages aloud helps identify parts that don’t ring true to the ear and other issues the eye does not catch.
- Stick to one voice
- Cut long sentences in two.
- Use good punctuation
- Remove redundancies
- Eliminate phrases like
- Utilize strong verbs
- Use active not passive voice
- Use contractions for less formal voice
- Identify who is speaking
Several rounds of edits and possible rewrites may be required before a manuscript is ready to be published. This is normal and not anything to worry about.
Be prepared to fail and prepared to learn from failure. Keep in mind; each failure brings you one step closer to success.
A true test of a writer is not how you handle success, but failure. Picking yourself back up and getting back to work on your manuscript is the best way to move forward.
So onward and upward, writer. And best of luck to you.