Tips For Writers
Begin with a great start. Grab
the reader from the first sentence. You
have an editor's attention for a matter
of minutes (maybe) before she moves on
to the next slush pile story.
Start with gusto. Bam! Wham! Kapowy!
Just like in the old Batman TV show make
sure your audiences can feel, see, and
hear the action. Start with a problem
or intriguing dialogue. Read some of
the opening lines or first pages of stories
that you like or stories that have become
children's classics or best sellers.
Study and perfect the art of a good beginning.
Let your characters do the talking.
Provide them with realistic voices. Interesting
voices. Voices that the reader wants
to hear more of. Voices that move the
story along. Voices that reveal the character.
Don't dilly-dally around with small talk.
That's for everyday stuff in the real
world but not in fiction. Create drama
with dialogue. Show the characters emotions
Mix the dialogue with action, creating
rhythm in your story, and using body
language to further reveal your character.
People are more likely to form their
opinions of someone from what they do
rather than what they say. The same applies
to your story characters.
Visualize each scene as though the characters
are performing on a stage before you.
Simply take down notes as they move and
speak. Watch closely for their facial
expressions, shoulder shrugs, sighs,
raised eyebrows, glares, tapping foot.
Write these into your story to create
an amazing mix of dialogue and action.
Think of creating a symphony. You must
orchestrate all the various mix of instruments.
Revel in the tension. Don't
rush through the really exciting parts
of your story. And for the reverse, don't
drag out less thrilling but substantial
sections. Make them as tight and thoughtful
as possible; then move on to the fun
Slow down the important scenes. Pretend
you've pushed the slow-motion button
on your recorder. Study each action in
great detail and write it down in clipped,
fast-paced sentences. Power-packed with
emotion. Strong verbs and nouns, few
adjectives and adverbs. Make the scene
even more suspenseful by compacting the
time frame needed for the hero to accomplish
the goal. Hear the clock ticking in your
head. Feel the tension down into your
fingers. Then let them type away.
Write in a rush. Initially,
while the idea is hot and the scene is
flowing, write without looking back.
Feel the need to rush on. To reach the
finish line. Take deep breaths. Listen
to some mind-enhancing alpha brainwave
music like Mozart selections. Don't let
your inner critic come out to play during
this writing phase.
I find it's helpful to let this story
concoction rest for a while before coming
back for serious editing. Depending on
the length and complexity of the story,
the down time may vary from a day or
two to perhaps weeks or even longer.
Edit with determination. Believe
in the story that you've written. But
believe that it can always be better.
Read it out loud. Listen to the music
of it. If you can't hear a beat, then
you haven't written it in yet.
Look for the strong foundation of story
elements: plot, setting, characters.
Beef them up with subtle word shifts
and tight editing. Paint colorful character
strokes, especially with the main character
and supporting characters. Expand your
palette and your painting techniques
for each new story. The reader should
feel he knows enough about each character
to like or dislike them. The characters
should be real enough that the reader
almost feels as though he is a part of
the story, too.
Then read your work like a copy editor.
Line by line. Letter by letter. Correct
the typos and punctuation errors. The
more professional looking your story
is the more believable it is for an editor.
Read! Read! Read! Probably the
most important thing you can do to improve
your writing is to read. Read great stories
like you want to write. Read some stories
that aren't that good. Study the differences.
Why did one work and not the other?
Read a variety of works by a variety
of authors. Expose yourself to different
writing styles and genres. Reading poems
is a great way for me to loosen my writing
and help generate ideas. Reading nonfiction
often leads to ideas for fiction stories
as well. Read the newspaper and adult
magazines for a wealth of ideas.
Keep a record of what you read and who
publishes it. This way you can refer
back to your notes when trying to remember
which publishing house likes romantic
picture books or which one walks the
line with edgy stories. Is there a pattern
to what they like to print or what a
particular editor likes to work on? Or
which writer crosses the boundaries between
picture books and young adult. How does
she do it?
Read. Study. Read. The only way to be
a writer is to be a reader first.