Yeah, I’m still wet behind the ears when it comes to writing, but here’s what I’ve figured out:
1. Grammar only gets you so far. There’s more to writing than clusters of mechanically perfect sentences. But you must master grammar, anyway. Why would an editor or agent take on your “diamond in the rough” if you can’t even be bothered to take care of the basics of punctuation, etc? Especially when they have their pick of marketable projects without these issues.
2. Too much description has a tranquilizing effect on the reader. Purple prose is a hallmark of bad writing. And who gives a flying fig about the pattern on the china or the silken texture of the bathrobe, anyway? Only describe stuff that matters, stuff that the reader really needs to know.
Sadly, you probably won’t recognize you’re doing this on your own. (At least I didn’t.) Get thee a critique partner or workshop group.
3. Dialogue tags can make or break a scene. Not everything needs a tag. Or an adverb.
4. Gestures (he winked, his eyes widened, his lips curled, etc.) are often poor substitutes for true emotion. Are there real thoughts behind those cliches? If so, share the thoughts instead of the gestures.
5. Writing fiction is less about linear action and more about heart. A constant stream of “he did this, and then this happened, and then he did this…” makes for a cold, clinical briefing. If you want to write a story with emotional power, break up the action with interior thought, characterization and backstory.
6. Voice is not a made-up hoodoo term. It’s the distinctive flavor the author injects into the story. Great authors have it in spades, and it makes their books unforgettable. Don’t ask me how it works? I don’t know. I just know a great voice when I read it.
7. I don’t really know that much. And maybe you don’t, either. So take all the good advice and critique you can, whenever you can. It really helps.
In fact, I’m very interested in what YOU have learned so far. Please tell me about it with in the comments below.
Hungry for more?
Try this recipe for Kitchen Sink Cookies. They are chock full of distinctive flavor.