Okay here’s the guide for this post. If you want to lose your readers, follow the sentences with the strike-out. If you want to grab your readers by their collars and drag their minds through your story (no violence intended), follow the normal sentences:
First paragraph hard up against the margin (And other formatting).
Go look around at any novel. I dare you …
Also, Use en or em dashes (those longer looking ones) unless you are joining two words together. E.g. Smith-Johnson vs. I hate him — really. Remember that semi-colons are only used to connect two sentences and when separating complex lists. A wrong example: The vomit stunk; so putrid. Remember to interact the character/s with the setting.
“Martin, you shouldn’t be here.”
I rolled my eyes. No way was I going to leave.
“Shut it. Put a peg over your nose if you can’t stand the smell.” She gave me the eyes. The “don’t mess with me” ones. “I’ve been working at this abattoir for ten years. I can stand the sight and smell of an animal without a head or its skin.”
(This scene has so — soo — much potential. I want to smell the dying flesh. I want to see what the walls and the items furnishing the room looks like in a place like this. Be stingy! Squeeze out all you can from a scene.)
Chunks of word/sentences/paragraphs that are too long or too short concurrently. You want your novel to look as appealing as a beautiful painting. Vary the length of words. Most of the time, however, a shorter word will do instead of a longer one (approved by George Orwell).
A personal tip? When I read I feel like I’ve turned into a stereotypical male. I can’t handle too much going on. I want something simple. I don’t want to see the first page and only two paragraphs!
You haven’t earned the right to do what you like — yet. You need to do everything in your power to grab me and doing the above is like asking me to run a marathon. Uh-uh.
I learnt this tip from my TAFE teacher (he backed his theory from every student rebuttal): every opening to a novel must:
a) create humour,
b) involve human suffering, and/or
c) involve family.
Every beginning has at least one of those factors. Make sure yours does too.
Okay, this one seems obvious but if you are writing about angels, you need to make sure you’re doing something that hasn’t been done before in novels such as Hush, Hush and Fallen.
It’s easy to get caught up in editing and preparing your novel for publication. Consider whether your “One year ago” or “Dream sequence” scene will bring something fresh to your reader compared to their last novel.
It’s not a cliché to describe your character as they stare in the mirror.
Overuse adjectives and adverbs.
Here’s what not to do:
“The cup was very hot,” she said worriedly.
Here’s what you should do (note that by cutting the original part, it reads punchier): She put her hand on the bench to steady herself. “The cup was … hot.”
This sounds like such a little difference but once you start harping on about the blue, wide, clear sky and how slowly, awkwardly somethings are, you convert to weak writing that Tells instead of Shows. Remember for every “awkwardly” you use, you are taking the easy way out of describing this to the reader (much more effective).
Strong nouns and verbs are what create good writing (although I’m sure most of you already know this).
Relying on passive sentences.
In life, we use manners. In fact, in Government documents, saying, “The pavement will not be removed by the Council,” is preferred. In fiction? Be a mannerless — fearless — writer. Say, “George killed the child.” (You hate George, don’t you?)
Compare the former sentence with this. “The child was killed.” (Not so angry anymore are you? You aren’t sure who to blame!)
One way to easily pick out the suspect passive sentences is if there is no subject (who killed the child?) or if the subject comes after the object (Telling the reader that “The child was killed and then including “by George”). Humans naturally read from left to right. So write:
George (subject) killed the child (object).
Okay. I know I’m being super shifty here but I’ve already mentioned this one and I know so many of my lovely readers have already heard me harp on about it, so for the rest who haven’t heard me mention it, here’s the link.
So. How were those
rules guidelines? I may have forgotten, like, ten other important ones so now over to you …
Readers: What are your tips for strong writing?
- Writing tip #1: Don’t write what the scene is about — (rebeccaberto.wordpress.com)
- Create a compelling opening to your novel (rebeccaberto.wordpress.com)
- My top 10 tips for writers (rebeccaberto.wordpress.com)
- Using Strong Verbs and Nouns (http://www.whitesmoke.com)