10 Little Lessons on Writing

1. Show versus Tell- showing the action in your story pulls the reader into the story as the character is going through it...every pulse racing detail using your senses as a guide.

2. You are never finished editing. Your first version of the story is your first draft.  Do not think it is a finished draft. Just because your spelling or grammar checker does not hit on anything does not mean you are finished writing. To keep things in perspective, I go through about six drafts rewriting, editing, and making sure every word counts.

3.  How high is the tension in your story.  What is at stake? It's like watching a tightrope walker on the high wire without a net.  He takes one step off the platform and sways to get his balance, and then takes a step. You watch riveted and even though you know he's a professional you expect gravity to pull him to the ground.  It is the same with the tension in your story. I create stories with a roller coaster effect. You inch your way to the top, and then fall... inch your way to the top again, and then fall. Never take the reader where he expects to go...make them wait for it.

4.  Remember writing is like learning to ride a bike.  I almost guarantee the first time you got on a bicycle, you did not ride it perfectly. But you got back on and kept trying.  Writing well is an art form like painting, needlecraft, singing, or playing a musical instrument.  Practice, practice, practice.

5. Another shout-out to editing.  Nobody likes it.  I can't think of one of the hundred plus authors I know who likes editing.  Editing is boring.  Editing is tedious.  It ranks right up there with writing a query letter or a synopsis as one of the most hated things writers HAVE to do. Hiring a book doctor or editor is the easy way out, but it does not give you the satisfaction of doing a job well.  There is hope though, the more you edit the better your next novel will be because you will have learned from your mistakes...don't worry you will learn new mistake to do.

6. Pacing- How many of you have read Dan Brown? Da Vinci Code? Raise your hand...how many of you were exhausted by the pace?  Boom, boom, boom! While Dan Brown is not a good example for good writing he does have the fast paced rhythm down pat. Like above I use the roller coaster method towards writing.  It's heart pounding action (high tension), and then a scene break where I do not give the reader what he expects (a lull or little tension) it's twisting the screws a little tighter in increments, and then it's fast again.  I give the reader a breather and build the anticipation factor...in other words I leave them hanging until the next page.

7. Your hook, what keeps the reader turning the page? Remember on average there are 250 words to a page...so as a writer what are you going to put on those last fifty words which will make the reader turn the page or turn to the next chapter?

8. Reading levels.  How many times have you read something that made you want to grab a dictionary to find out what something meant? Do you want your reader to stop reading and grab a dictionary? Nope. I came from a technical writing background...more college level type books.  Then I read somewhere that the average newspaper is written on an 8th grade level. I had to dummy down my first novel because according to the scale it was written on a college reading level.  People read novels for enjoyment.  It is why we study textbooks and read for pleasure.  I don't know too many people who read textbooks for enjoyment.

9.  Have you ever been so irritated at a book that you threw it  across the room? I have.  Mostly it's author intrusion.  I read a book co-authored by one of my favorite authors, Clive Cussler.  I read interested until I hit the end of Chapter 4.  The chapter ended with ... "Little did he know he'd be dead in an hour."  This is a pet peeve of mine. You pulled me out of the action. Naughty, naughty.  Never pull the reader away from what is going on in your novel.

10. The Info Dump. You as the author have this whole novel planned out.  You know who the villains are, you know what is going to happen, you know the history. You get so excited that you write it all down. Your are vomiting all this information on the reader. Yucky huh? All the more reason not to do it.  Keep in mind...is this necessary for the action to continue?  Is this the right place for it?  Does the reader need to know this right now? Do this for every line you write and you will avoid this problem. Ways to correct this problem is spoon feed it to the reader a line at the time when necessary.

There you have it 10 little lessons on writing.