In the past number of years I have been writing, reading about writing, getting notes from editors and fellow writers and this is what I have compiled about what to pay the most attention to when writing a book. Of course there is much more to the writing process from idea to completion of a book, but this is as good a place to start as any.
(1) Point of View: Stay in the POV of the character that most matters during the entire scene or better yet chapter. Thanks Judy for this one! I was so good at head hopping that sometimes it flowed by with no one noticing and that’s not acceptable in professional editing. Head hopping confuses the reader.
(2) Sprinkle adverbs judiciously: No need to obsess about it but keep the number down to what really works. I had one bad experience with this from someone who thought they were most helpful pointing out every adverb in a chapter. I felt that it was all they cared about in my writing. Not story, not characters or plot but the d**m adverbs! Of course once I calmed down I realized that it’s definitely something you need to watch out for.
(3) Your opening sentence: Make it the best it can be. Keep it exciting and make your reader want to know more. I’ve read lots of first lines to see what people like when you juxtaposition one idea against another it can work well. Example: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times concept in The Tale of Two Cities.
(4) Chapter cliff-hangers: First book I ever wrote I always ended with the heroine writing in her journal and drifting off to sleep. Apparently that helps a reader do the same!
(5) Show don’t tell: Readers love dialogue, not long descriptions like we writers so often enjoy compiling. Bring your readers into the action and keep them feeling what your characters are feeling. This one has been in every book on writing I’ve read because it’s so important.
(6) Write in the genre you love to read: Stands to reason you need to know what others in your target market are writing about in their novels.
(7) Read, read, read: This one speaks for itself.
(8) Write up to your readers: Don’t assume anything less than the best about your readers. They will spot things you can’t imagine them spotting. Do your research and honor your writing and your readers. They will thank you for it.
(9) Love your characters (or hate the villain): You need to understand who you are writing about as well as you understand yourself or your friends. You need to know your main characters life story. And it’s so much fun getting to know them. Enjoy the process and write a full biography on the heroine and hero at least.
(10) Enjoy the art and journey of storytelling: This one is easy at first but can be harder during the editing process. Choose wisely. And finish that book! A lot of writing teachers have observed that many people just don’t follow through with the process. Like Woody Allen said, half of life is just showing up.
So there you have it, a quick list of what has been drilled into me in past years. What has been the most important consideration you have taken onboard about how you go about the wonderful process of writing a book? I’d love to know!
Best, January Bain