Writing Goals 2013

I’ve been reading more books that are outside of my usual tastes lately, and it’s been good for me.  It’s made me think about what makes a good book.  When I read my favorite authors, I expect them to deliver certain things really well.  And they almost always do…that’s why they’re my favorites. But when I try a new author or a new genre, I don’t know what to expect, and I end up paying more attention to how the plot is constructed and the characters are developed.  It makes me think more about what works and what doesn’t…and how I’ve told my own stories, and how I can tell them better.

Things I’ve learned:

1.  Great scenes do not necessarily create a great book.  I’ve read quite a few novels lately where each scene is entertaining, and I keep turning the pages, but when I finish the novel, I realize something was lacking.  I enjoyed the book, but I didn’t love it.  The book didn’t demand much from me, so I didn’t invest much into it.  The novel’s a great one-shot read, but I wouldn’t go back for more.

2.  Repetition kills tension.  Every author knows that repeating information in a novel is redundant and loses a reader’s interest, but using the same technique over and over again gets old too.  I quit reading mystery writers who killed someone every time their plot started to sag.  I’m not against a death here or there to keep tension up, but enough is enough.  And glopping on more gore doesn’t make the scene more original.  The same goes for battles in fantasy novels.  Even if the writer adds a new element each time to keep the scenes fresh, the technique gets old.  The writer needs to change it up and surprise us.  Don’t be predictable.

3.  Angst isn’t enough to make me like a character.  Every protagonist has a problem, or an author wouldn’t have a story.  I’ve read a few stories lately where the writer straps a bad choice/experience onto the main character, and she carries it everywhere with her.  It affects the way she interacts with others.  I like that.  It adds depth, but it’s not enough.  The character has to come alive as a person to hold my interest.  She does this through her actions, not her thoughts.  What she does says more about her than lots of internal dialogue.

4.  Balance is hard to find.  My favorite books get it right.  Every main character comes to life.  No character fills a “slot”–this is the love interest, this is the bad guy, this is the potential body when someone has to die, etc.  There’s internal and external conflict, and there’s tension between characters.  Every scene has a purpose and conflict of some kind.

5.  Knowing the rules of good writing and doing them are two different things.  But my goal for 2013 is to try to grow as a writer, to make my stories more powerful or to involve the reader more.

Also, I want to thank anyone who’s taken the time to write any kind of feedback for my stories or novels, from long reviews to one sentence opinions.  I appreciate it.  Constructive criticism is a blessing.  It makes me think.

I hope 2013 is a great year for all of you–whatever your endeavors.  And if you’re an author, I hope you flex your writing muscles and your stories are better than ever.  What’s your favorite novel?  And why?

6 thoughts on “Writing Goals 2013

  1. I like what you said – “The character has to come alive as a person to hold my interest. She does this through her actions, not her thoughts. What she does says more about her than lots of internal dialogue.” I’ve been re-writing my novel and looking at my protagonist. I used too much internal dialogue and she started to sound so whiny! I pulled back a bit and show her character by how she interacts with others and her environment… much better!
    I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season… and Happy New Year, Judith.


    1. Our grandsons were here for the holidays, so it was nice. No writing, but lots of hustle and bustle, kids in and out. My daughter’s a nurse and had to work lots of hours, so they stayed with us and she came to see them here. Ty goes back to IU on Monday, and Nate goes back to high school, so I’ll be ready to hit the computer again, but I don’t sweat serious writing over Christmas.
      As for writing good characters, I had a friend who wrote an entire novel with NO internal dialogue or deep POV, and no beta readers really connected with her characters, so she went back and added deep POV, and it made a huge difference. Another friend had TONS of deep POV, but her protagonist constantly REACTED to stuff instead of TAKING action, so she had to add more action, and it made her book better. It’s all a balancing act. Thank goodness for rewrites! I think the best blog I read about writing character was Les Edgerton’s. I’ll include the link and you can see what you think. Happy writing!


      1. So wonderful that you’ve had family visiting – sounds crazy and hectic and awesome! We had a quiet family gathering – my mom wasn’t doing very well – very forgetful and as it turns out, she had run out of insulin and hadn’t taken any for 2 or 3 days! Yikes! Then she took a fall outside – thankfully she wasn’t hurt. Seems like her sugar’s a bit more under control – and she sounds clearer. What a fright she gave us…
        Thanks for the insight – I like the idea of balancing action and pov. So true. My protag. from the Irish is very pov, very little action and boy can she be WHINY! In part because she has no control over her life… I’m editing now for that. Gotta remove the irritating voice – even I can’t stand her at times!
        My new novel is pure fantasy – almost mg, not quite ya and why do I do that to myself?! But loving the characters – the female protag rocks! It’s funny how different this is from my other novel – very light with no death, no epic battles, just simple love with a high fantasy twist.
        Well – time to go check out that link – and thanks for that. Hope you are well-


  2. It’s from you that I’ve learned the importance of building a believable character, so I’m gonna focus on that. You’re most generous in disclosing so many secrets of good writing, you have no idea how useful they are to aspiring writers. I prefer writing according to my instinct, it may be wrong, because I might break lots of rules, but also I can preserve some originality. I wish you a lovely new year Judith, with millions of book copies sold :).


  3. I think the most important thing a writer can do is to stay true to herself and her own voice. So I think it’s wise to write what feels right to you. A unique voice is hard to find. You have one. That’s a real strength

    P.S. I just put a link in for Susan about Les Edgerton’s article on writing believable characters. I think it’s one of the best I’ve read. I’ll include it for you, in case you’re interested.
    And happy writing!


  4. Susan, Glad your mom’s better now that she’s on her insulin again. My daughter’s a nurse, and diabetes is something to be taken seriously. It has to be fun to write two such different books–the yin and yang of writing! Enjoy.


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