I had a group of writer friends over last Wednesday for a NovelCon. We each brought pages and spent the day, listening to parts of novels that each writer wanted feedback on. Brainstorming with friends always reminds me of things I know make for good writing and forces me to think about them again.
In random order, here are a few of our comments:
1. Get rid of filter words–He thought. He saw. He wondered. He felt.–Most times, if you hack them off, your sentence is stronger and you have internal dialogue. You live inside the character’s head instead of being reminded that you’re outside of it. It makes your writing more immediate.
2. Get the sequence right. Write your novel from beginning to end without jumping around. Start at the inciting incident and use cause and effect to reach the end. Flashbacks are fine, in moderation, but most novels benefit from “this happened, so that resulted…,” etc.
3. Don’t play it too safe. Take risks. Push your characters closer to the edge. See how they react, what they decide to do. Make them more real.
4. Voice matters. “Hear” your characters so that, even if you don’t use tag lines, each character will be distinct. Your characters shouldn’t all “sound” alike. And let the voice of each story fit its mood, the tone for that world.
5. First chapters are killers. If you get one right on the first try, do a happy dance and celebrate, because you got just plain lucky.
6. POV depends on which character has the most to lose. Single POV and multiple POV both work. It depends on what kind of story you want to tell. Multiple POV can build more tension. It can show a few different characters all working toward the same ending for different reasons, in different ways. Together, their storylines build to a crescendo.
7. Show, don’t tell. Writers always hear that advice because showing is what brings a story to life, so that a reader lives the story alongside the protagonist. How do you show instead of tell? This is an article that might help: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/show-dont-tell/
8. Use active instead of passive verbs. Every writer knows this, but we all slip into passive or weak verbs when our brain’s tired and we don’t have enough energy to be more specific and search for the strongest verb we can use to bring a scene to life. But strong verbs make for strong scenes.
9. Use short, punchy sentences for action scenes. And don’t skimp on these scenes. Most writers build to battle scenes (verbal or action), and readers feel cheated if the “pay-off” scene is rushed.
These are just some of the comments from our NovelCon–things writers have probably heard over and over again. But one more time never hurts. Happy writing in February!