Over the last year and half I have done many posts illuminating aspects of writing and honing your skills as a storyteller. I thought today I would re-cap the sum of my mini lessons up till now.
1. Write your story. I don’t mean about you, I mean tell the story that is rattling around in your head. Describe for us the world in your imagination. Make your characters come alive to us through your words. Let us feel their passion, their pain, experience their plight, and let us celebrate in their victories, as we live vicariously through them as we read your work.
2. Edit and proof the many layers that make up your work. There are about as many facets to good editing and proofing as there is in writing the piece to begin with.
3. Learn when to start and stop. School is out and this isn’t a bloody book report. Maybe end a chapter with a question, or at a high point in the action. Our goal is to make the reader not want to put the book down. Our job as the storyteller is to draw the reader into our imagination through the tempo, the words, the personalities, the stress or elation, and entertain them up and through the last page. You want them dragging their feet as they near the end of the book because they don’t want it to end.
4. That part of the story that steps over the boundary of real to unreal that is the special magical part of every book. Boldly jump into that special pool with both feet. Don’t describe the crap out of it, dance around it, run through it screaming as a child playing Red Rover and bust right through it. That’s what the reader is here for. Don’t let this be the only special piece of the work. I have read books where the authors run through it, dance all over it before running through it again.
5. Take the reader somewhere they have never been before. This is your book from your imagination, dreamed up by the unique individual that only you are. Nobody else has had the same everything you have – you are unique, and so your story should be also.
6. You’re just spinning your wheels until you write and publish those first million words. You have a long way to go. You are not going to get rich being a writer. Most writers have been working at this for years before they are published or before their books get discovered. You may never sell more than a couple hundred books!
Still here and reading? Then you might have what it takes to be a writer. It is mostly solitary, unthankful work. That is why if you’re not writing for the right reasons your just spinning your wheels. If your goal is to write because you love writing, because you want to share this story that is bursting to get out of you, and you don’t care if anyone ever reads or buys a single copy, then you’re well on your way – finish the bloody book and get it out here! There is a world of readers out there. Somebody will read it. Somebody will love it. Some will hate it and you for writing it. Welcome to being a published author!
7. When it is hard and you’re questioning your resolve, your story, thinking about bagging it ask yourself some questions.
What would you be doing otherwise?
Are you typing on a typewriter with carbon paper?
Are you writing it out long hand?
Will you have to make each copy yourself to distribute the work?
8. When you finish it and it has been edited and proofed, then self-publish it! This answers some elementary questions right away.
Do people like my work? Not everybody will! Can you take criticism without slitting your wrists? The average grade in regards to rating a book is a three. Honestly that’s the best any of us can hope for. You will get ones, twos, and threes. You may get some fours and fives!! You won’t know until you get it out there.
You want to be traditionally published! So does everybody, but there are draw backs. Are you willing to sell the rights (literally) to your story? Don’t spend your life trying to get traditionally published. You could waste years trying to get noticed in a broken down not working system when in the mean time you could be cranking out books and honing your skills so that later when they (publishers and agents) want you, you have real bargaining power, not just your hat in your hand and one untried and untested manuscript.
9. Have your work Edited! It’s that important enough that I have listed it twice. Do it right the first time or you will be going back and doing it over and over again until you get it right.
9 ½. Watch your tempo. In the continuing efforts to be better with each successive book the limits are being pushed to the maximum by many authors. Reading fiction is for enjoyment so be mindful of the reader and watch the tempo. Give them time to process what you’re doing with the characters before you throw another cop car into a helicopter or blow up the world!
10. FINISH THE BOOK! Everybody wants to write a book and millions more have an idea for one or started writing one. I started twenty different books over ten years before I finally sat down and kept plugging away at the same one until I finished it.
Three edits later and a new cover and “Whisper” isn’t that bad. I pray it will always be the worst book I ever write. I hope each one just gets better than the last one. I am halfway through the third edit of “No Rules Of Engagement” my second novel – it is still out there for sale but the soon to be released 2012 Edition should have almost everything fixed.
I have come to believe that every time you go through a book there is something that could be tweaked, and depending on the school and background in English what one person finds correct someone else will say is wrong. English is not an absolute science; it’s subjective, which is another problem writers must deal with.
Thanks for taking time to share with me. Keep an eye out for the re-release of “No Rules Of Engagement” and the soon to be released “Leviathan Deterrent” the sequel to “Whisper.”
Have a Great Day and writers get back to work, there are readers looking for their next book right now!!