Begin at a point of tension
How many times have you begun a book and couldn’t even get past the first page simply because it wasn’t engaging enough and didn’t reel you in upfront? Many times, I guess.
Now, don’t make the same mistake.
If you have not caught the attention of the reader by the fourth paragraph, you might not catch it again. This is why it is advisable that you begin your novel/story at a point of tension. Don’t begin after the accident has occurred and a few people are dead. Instead, begin as the accident unfolds. Hold the reader by the seat of his pants as the car plunges into the sideguard, as the driver loses control of the steering wheel, and as horrible screams render the air.
Now, that’s how to catch a reader’s attention.
Life is not all about work. You need to learn how to reward yourself when you accomplish a writing goal. It can be with a cup of coffee (my idea of relaxation) or a quick game on your system if you are a game person (I am loving GardenScapes right now).
Sometimes, I just watch a documentary. I find that rewarding yourself with something you love gingers you to want to work even more, and stops your writing from becoming tedious and boring.
Try it today.
Chop up your work
I find that I get overwhelmed if I try to do too much, too soon. The one thing that keeps me from getting so overwhelmed and that keeps me sane when writing is to chop up my work. If I am working on a full length novel, I usually do an outline for the first five scenes. Then I get to work, writing the scenes one after the other. Once I am done, I do an outline for the next five or six.
Having a job that is accomplishable is a relief, and before you know it, the whole manuscript is completed. Some may take a full year, some two years, and some may take only a few months.
You might want to try this tactic too.
Everybody gets it, so you will get it. Don’t expect that you will be different. How to get over it? I have a few ideas that have helped me over the years.
- Pause your current project and start another. Sometimes some stories come along in fits and starts, and the story you are working on may be one of those. You work at a feverish speed for a couple of days, then you seem to run out of steam for another couple of days. Leave the story, start a new one. You’ll be surprised that in a little while, that initial story will draw you back to itself.
- Read instead. Fill the time you would have spent writing reading. You will get new ideas and/or you will get clarity. Somehow, your work will be better for it.
The power of observation
Take time to observe your surroundings and the people that populate it. To write spectacularly (especially fiction), you need to be able to create believable characters, and these characters can be fleshed out through the power of observation.
How do people talk? How do they move? How do they relate to the people in their vicinity?
Observe, observe, observe.
Show, don’t tell.
I am sure you have heard this times too numerous to mention, but it needs to be said again and again. It is your job as a writer to show us what you mean, rather than tell us. Showing makes your work come alive and hooks the reader to the very end. For example, when writing about how a husband’s terrible words caused his wife to faint, don’t say, “The shock of his words was so much that she fainted”.
Why don’t you try, “The words came to her like a blow. They seemed to coalesce into one big fist headed straight for her. And she couldn’t duck from their import, couldn’t not be affected by them. As they hit, darkness gathered around her and she gladly succumbed to the waiting arms of a blackout”.
Read, read, read
Read, read, read. I have heard it said before that a writer who does not read will soon be unable to write. I find this to be absolutely true. I enjoy reading solely for the pleasure of reading. I also enjoy reading because it makes me see other writers’ relationship with words. This has improved my writing over the years, and I hope it does the same for you. So read, read, read.
Keep a notebook/jotter handy
This may sound crazy to the non-writer out there, but I am sure the writer in you has experienced this and understands; ideas come at the oddest of times. You might be on the toilet, in the middle of dinner, or on a public bus, then you get struck by a brilliant writing idea. The problem is if you don’t write it down immediately, you are likely to forget.
Simple solution; keep a notebook handy. I always have a minimum of two jotters in my handbag at any given time. They keep me from going crazy. You should try it.
The first writing tip on this blog was to write your story all the way through before attempting to edit. The next tip, obviously is to edit once you are done, and to edit and edit again. Personally, I edit almost three or four times before I am satisfied with the finished product; even then, there are mistakes that my eyes wouldn’t see because I wrote the piece myself.
Don’t be like one of my writer friends who doesn’t believe in editing; your work will suffer for it. Edit, edit and edit again. It is one of the hallmarks of a great writer.
Write, don’t edit
My tip for the week is to write your story all the way through before attempting to edit. I have found that editing while writing is a major distraction, and will keep you from getting the whole story out the way you originally intended. So, write first. Then edit later.