Ten Writing Tips

Over the years I've learned a lot as a writer. That doesn't mean I'm an expert. I still make plenty of mistakes, but I've been around long enough to know that I do have some tips that I can share.

#1. If you want to write a book, don't talk about it, sit down and start writing. Outline if you want, make a story board, put your ideas on 3X5 cards, or just sit at your keyboard and begin. The method doesn't really matter, what matters is doing it.

#2. Plan your characters ahead of time. Make notes about them that so you won't forget things about them. They need to have a back story, but you don't need to put it all in the book. The reason you need to know is so you'll know how each character will react to the events that happen in the book.

#3. Pick appropriate names for your characters. A person's name should reflect them somewhat. If writing a historical piece, don't pick a name that wasn't in use at the time. Be careful not to have your characters' names begin with the same letter, sound too much alike, rhyme or all same the same number of syllables. (Collect names from graduation programs and the like, you can also find names on the Internet, Names for Babies, Ethnic names, etc.)

#4. Whose story is it? Decide who will be telling the story. Will it be in first person, close third? Learn about staying in POV. It's okay to have more than one Point-of-View, but stay in one per scene. It should be the person who has the most at stake in that particular scene. You never want to confuse the reader. The best way for me to do this is to climb right inside the POV character and see, hear, feel (touch and emotionally, smell etc. what she or he is.

#5. Begin when something exciting is going on. You want the reader to be intrigued from the first sentence.

#6. Have a good balance of dialogue, narrative and action.

#7. The dialogue should have a purpose--revealing character or moving the plot along. It also should sound natural, but leave out all the mundane things we say all the time like "Hello, how are you?" "I'm find, how are you?" People speak in fragments, men more than women. Listen to people around you, yes, go ahead and eavesdrop. You don't need other words besides he said or she said, but better yet, have the character do something to use as a dialogue tag--or take the opportunity to describe the speaking character a bit.

#8. Where are the characters having their conversation? Don't just have talking heads. Let the reader know where the characters are. Some authors are so great at describing setting such as James Lee Burke and William Kent Krueger that you feel you are right there along with the character. Setting is as important as the characters.

#9. Let us see the exciting things as they happen. Don't tell us about it afterward. This is the famous, "Show Don't Tell" rule.

#10. Write, write, write. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. But at some point stop and start sending out queries. Never let rejections get you down. When you finish one novel, begin another.

Good luck on this great adventure called writing.



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