Disclosure – I am a ‘prize winning’ author but not a huge best seller. I am best known as a playwright, but not as a novelist, although I have written half a dozen books with various nominations and laudatory reviews. Writing them is one thing, selling is quite another!
These tips therefore are about good writing, not about good marketing, which is a whole business in itself.
The list is really a distillation of all the other posts in my blog. So here goes –
Principles of Good Writing.
1. DISCOVER YOUR VOICE.
Forget what preconceived ideas you have about what makes a writer, or what styles your favourite authors use. All great writers have their own unique voice, which is what their fans love about them. Open your mind and find your own music.
2. AVOID CLICHÉ.
Cliché in plotting, cliché in characters, cliché in language. Your story must be original and avoid the obvious twists and climaxes. Your characters must have individuality, quirks, and defects. And above all your language must be distinctive (see VOICE above). This means always going deeper or thinking outside the box. Don’t use adjectives or adverbs wherever possible. There is nothing more trite than reading that something is ravishing, startling, extraordinary, iconic, wonderful, dazzling, heartbreaking, etc. Or that something is performed speedily, angrily, frantically, beautifully. Let the reader imagine the situation through your choice of verbs, dialogue, action.
3. KEEP THE PACE AND THE TENSION
However much you are tempted to indulge in picturesque description or fascinating side issues, keep the main thrust of the plot ever in mind. Always maintain the momentum and the suspense. The reader must WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.
4. BE ECONOMICAL
Economy in writing style, in plot, in characters. The focus must always be on your main protagonist(s). Your plot has to follow a logical direction. Your writing needs to be short, sharp, and concise. The days of long elaborate sentences in the style of Dickens or Tolstoy are long gone (unless your VOICE is that of a true literary highbrow). Your cast list needs to be limited, so that every character is there for a reason and adds to the story. The action must have relevance to the theme.
5. REVISE, REVISE, REVISE
There is ALWAYS a better way to say something. Always a better word. Always a more original thought. Come back to your piece after six months and it’s a certainty that you will want to improve on something. Come back after five years and you’ll probably want to rewrite the whole bloody thing!
6. On the other hand, LOVE your work.
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