At my last book signing, I was approached by several writers who asked me to tell them the number one tip when writing a book. Unfortunately, I couldn't answer their question.
I couldn't narrow it down to just one. Sure I could’ve said something like, “Finish your book” or “Don’t give up” or something they’d probably heard a million times but I don’t think that was what they were looking for, so I promised them a list instead.
I will list 10 here and add more next week.
1. Conflict - Something or someone has to have a problem that needs to be resolved. This keeps the reader interested and is vital to the plot.
2. Setting - Let the reader know where the story is taking place. Using their prior knowledge about a particular place will help the reader picture their surroundings as they read.
3. Character Development - Make sure your characters stay the same - you don't want to introduce a character as being polite and well-mannered and then have them yell at a waiter - unless of course it's part of the story line. You want the characters to be real in the eyes of the reader. Someone they can relate to or someone that reminds them of someone they know or knew. Also, make your characters more than one-dimensional. Give them thoughts, emotions, ideals, and opinions.
4. Interest - Because we are self-published authors, we don't have the luxury of waiting for something interesting to happen halfway through the book. You've got to catch the attention of the readers, agents, or publishers.
5. Use Figurative Language - In my first book, I was writing for a YA audience particularly for boys. I didn't want to bore them or scare them away from the book so I felt like I had to "dumb it down." I wish I could write that book again. It's important to use words that create imagery and voice. If you want to describe a car crash - like in my second book - don't just say the car hit the pole or something ridiculous like that. Where were you driving? Who did you pass? Were you speeding, swerving, looking at your phone? What was the character thinking? These are details that readers want to know - they really do. Include it.
6. Dialogue - When you write dialogue, write like someone would talk. Most people don't go around talking in complete sentences. They use lots of slang, contractions, and don't go through a long diatribe. Break it up into shorter passages when a character is long winded. Give your character some action in-between his/her dialogue. Sighing, pacing, running her fingers through her hair, etc.
7. Verb Tense - I wasn’t aware of how important my verb tenses were. I ended up having to go back in and change tense for 15 chapters. If you’re writing about something that happened in the past - stick to past tense verbs. I went from Present to Past to Present. It was hard to do but not as hard as going through and changing 15 chapters. Learn your lesson.
8. Dialogue Tags - I know you’re probably sick of writing he said or she said. I like to change it up and give the character action before he says something so that I’m not constantly saying that word. I’ve read many opinions on this though and it seems that some authors will use said instead of anything else because they want the reader to focus on the dialogue. I personally like to change it up. I think it makes things more interesting.
9. Metaphors and Simile and Idioms- I know I said figurative language before but using these literary sentences do give your writing more depth and voice. Even if they are some you’ve heard before or read somewhere, use them.
10. Outline - I know I recently said that I don’t do outlines at the beginning of my writing but I’ve found myself creating one at some point during the novel’s creation. It really does help - even if it’s not detailed or long. Organization is important. This also helps to give you ideas on what you can add or take out.
I will add ten more next week.
Thanks to those of you submitting comments, sending me emails, and reading my blog.