Saturday, January 25, 2014
by Miranda Phillips Walker
Using an outline is up to you, but frankly, I don’t use a hard copy outline. I just have in my mind where I would like my story to go. I let my ideas unfold naturally. I do make notes of the characters, places, and most important their names. Speaking of names, try to keep the names you pick different so the reader doesn’t get confused. Like say in your story you might have a Dr. Marywell, a secretary named Mary Manguss, and a cop named Marcus Mann. These names are too similar and will stop the reader; you never want the reader or editor to stop reading!
Now the fun part, just sit down and write. Always start the first chapter in the middle of action. From then on, try to have “heat” on every page (action). In rewrite and edit mode, strike out any idea or sentence that doesn’t move you story along, and be careful when adding any back story. The back story should be added in sparingly. That is allow it to build up throughout the novel. If you “shove in” too much too soon, you will bore the reader—not a good idea. Remember Conflict is King, there should be conflict with your characters from page one to the last chapter. The conflict should build throughout the story. In other words, every time the reader thinks it’s safe and he can breathe, throw in another twist. Also adding a sub-story is fine and fleshes things out, making the lives of the characters more complex—just as in life. But careful not to let it take away from your main story—or detract for overly long periods of time in the story.
I know you’ve heard this a million times: Show don’t Tell. When writing, bring in all 5 senses! What does the character feel, smell, hear, taste, etc. most important Watch Your POV! Stick to one character’s thought the entire chapter. If you don’t it will confuse the reader and stop the storyline.
If you haven’t noticed, we’re in a busy world; we are used to getting everything we want fast. James Patterson, bless his heart, started this Short Chapter business. It’s up to you but most readers including editors like short chapters like 8-12 pages at most, instead of the traditional 30-40 pages. Being a nurse, I love the medical stuff, but most readers will flip past a 3-page autopsy, whereas mine are brief. The characters get the info they need and their out of there!
I read my chapters out loud to myself as I go, and this helps pick out errors and really helps me know if it just sounds right. When you’re ready to let someone else review your work, give it to someone other than a close friend or relative. Why? You know grandma isn’t going to say it’s awful. This may come as a surprise, but your “baby” will be edited several times. Even tossing it in a drawer and leaving it for a month or two, then going back, you will pick up numerous editorial changes and new ideas to develop the story even further. Writers groups are a good resource as well, just be prepared to hear criticism—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You should make an effort every day to write and read the genre you’re interested in writing. Take note on how the masters write. Go to writing conferences, they are a gold mine of ideas and encouragement to all writers. On my website, I having some good writing resources for forensics and police procedurals.