In a previous post, we talked about reasons that some editors and literary agents don’t get jazzed up about good writing. So this week, we wanted to offer you some tips that can help you stand out in the crowd. Make your writing shine by pushing yourself to the next level.
Raise the stakes. What do your characters (or even you) have to lose? What if your heroine doesn’t get the guy? What if the student fails the test? What if the treasure map is not found? What if the secret is made public? What if the family does not reconcile?
If your answer is something along the lines of “the character will be sad and/or disappointed,” then you might want to give some more thought to upping the ante. What are the life-altering, horrible, unthinkable consequences of failure? Make them big. Then, make them bigger.
What are you afraid of? Want to break away from the pack? Write about what scares you. March right up to the things that make you cringe and cower, and look them in the eye. What scares you probably scares other people too—whether it’s one-armed killers or divorce. When you tap into your own fears, you tap into emotions common to us all.
Go after what you love. What gets you really jazzed up? What fascinates you? It may not be enough to simply skim the surface of the things that are interesting to you. Instead, you’ve got to dig deep. For example: Like flowers? Like cooking? Research them. Own them. Become the authority. Look at your subject from multiple angles. Exploit and explore elements of the things that fascinate you—and your readers will lock into your passion and, as long as you don’t overdo it, they’ll share it too.
Surprise us. Kids aren’t the only ones who love surprises. Are you keeping your readers on their toes? Do you have a surprise ending? Do your characters surprise us (is your hero a gruff, tatted-up ex-con who has a collection of antique dolls)? Surprise us and we’ll follow you forever.
Be insightful. Show us the world in a way that we’ve never seen it before. Make us think about things from a new perspective. Make the familiar unfamiliar. Make us say, “I never thought of it that way.”
Don’t make excuses. Here at Writer’s Relief, we can’t count the number of times we’ve heard writers say, “the story really picks up in chapter two…” Or “I know the secondary characters are not well-drawn, but the main character is awesome.” Veteran writers know an excuse when they see one. So you must…
Listen to your inner voice. Listen to the whispers. Let your subconscious mind direct your conscious mind. Try to get out of your own way. When the excuses (the blocks) are gone, your best writing can shine!
These are just a few things that you can do to make readers more excited about your writing—whatever your genre or form. If you’ve already got great writing, but you can’t manage to find the time to submit it, then you should contact Writer’s Relief. Seriously. We get it done for you. If you can take your writing to the next level, why not let us help you take your submission strategy there too? You don’t have to research and submit alone!
QUESTION: If you could only offer one piece of advice about crafting narrative to a new writer, what would it be?
Thanks for the reminder. I’m going to revisit my first two pages and be sure my readers don’t have to wait until Chapter 2 to get interested.
I love to be surprised when I’m reading — and I would love to run across a tatted up ex-con who collects antique dolls! (As a main character, that is…)
This entire article needs to be framed and hung on my wall! There are a bevy of excellent tips here. Thanks for condensing so many potential reasons for writer’s block in this post.-Ronna
Thanks, Ronna! We’re delighted that you found this article so helpful!
I have a novel I have completed and another almost completed, I desperately needed a publisher to publish the first one, as a moral boaster that will encourage to me write more.
Paul, Please do feel free to submit to our Review Board.
If we’re not reading in your genre when you decide to submit, we’ll simply hold your submission until we have openings again. Good luck!
Thank you for such a great post! My only advice to writers you’ve already covered: listen to your inner voice. When you’re not trying so hard to create your voice (or your character’s), it will naturally shine through. The most distinctive writing styles crop up when you have self-trust and confidence in the story you’re telling. While it’s good to admire other writers, you can’t mimic what they do or how they write; you have to create your own voice, style, and plan to become successful. It’s a very individual process.
I have just happened upon this Site from a link on Huffington Post. I have written in the legal world for over 20 years and am now writing some books for lawyers.
IMHO in the U.S. there are millions of OK writers, thousands of good writers and less than a few thousand excellent writers. Having read millions of pages of material (that’s just a wild estimate, I’m sure it’s not more than million 😉 I would give the majority of writers a “C” grade, not all that many “B’s” and very few “A’s.”
Of course the biggest problem people have is they are delusional, thinking their writing is really good, when in fact it’s atrocious. But that’s typical, isn’t it. How can someone who is incompetent be expected to figure out he or she is incompetent. The reason they are stupid is because they think they are intelligent.
I’m not that way. Despite my having been published in magazines and people complimenting my writing, I am always learning. And I am always learning something, almost every time I log on to the Net, for example.
One way I teach myself new techniques is as suggested in here, I read, read, and read some more. And another learning mechanism is I write, write, and write again, often times on blogs and forums. After all, I believe, only practice makes writing easy.
Besides, if one intends to or does in fact write for a living, he or she needs to daily write thousands of words, simply to keep the writing engines tuned up and humming. IMHO if you are not reading and writing EVERY DAY, then you are NOT a writer, at least not as a profession.
Eureka! It’s amazing where inspiration comes from…
I’ve been editing my MS but having problems with the middle chapters. Today, when I read this article — particularly the paragraph “What are you afraid of?” — revelation hit. Actually, a cascade of fresh ideas! I’m still processing them, but it seems your article may have sparked the solutions I’ve been struggling to pin down.
Thanks for the inspiration!