Thanks to my friend, Jackie Wesley, who has an amazing nose for sniffing out interesting posts about all things writery, and pointed me towards this link on Novelicious: (NB The tips are Bee Ridgeway’s, despite what the link says)
I thought this was fascinating. Not because I necessarily agree with all of her tips – I don’t, for the reasons given below. But I’m always really interested in learning how other writers set about things, and what works for them, and this list was concise, to the point and easy to follow, which already wins it several gold stars as far as I’m concerned.
Having said that, I do have a few niggles:
1. Add more characters – hmm, I’d apply this sparingly, if at all. I understand the rationale of wanting to show your main characters as multi-faceted, and what better way than through interaction with others? Except that if they aren’t sparkling as much as you hoped, I think I’d take a long hard look at your plot first. I worry that, unless you are Agatha Christie, tossing in a handful of warm bodies to spice things up could result in a glut of walking, talking plot devices. (And if you are Agatha Christie, I’m a bit scared right now…)
2. Write every day to a cliffhanger. Well, yee-ess, in that I do agree that you need to bring each scene or chapter to a definite conclusion. But a cliffhanger? I think that might be exhausting to write…and to read. Even rollercoasters have their moments of quiet.
3. Put animals in your book. Hmm again. Does your plot need animals? Really? So…why aren’t they there already?
4. When you show your writing to someone for the first time, tell them you don’t want criticism right away. Tell them to tell you what works first, tell them to find ten places that they loved, that surprised them, that stayed with them. Only if they are really good at THAT should you invite them to brainstorm with you about what else could happen.
There’s an excellent point here, I think – relentlessly negative criticism is soul-destroying, particularly when you’re just starting out as a writer. And there’s nothing worse than entrusting your precious work-in-progress to someone who clearly dislikes your chosen genre so much, you suspect there’s nothing you could do that would make them look favourably on your writing. But I think insisting on the above might be leaning too far in the other direction. If you’re anything like me, you’ll already have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t – what you desperately need is someone to home in on the things that need attention.
5. It’s called “voice” for a reason. Read your stuff out loud to yourself.
Absolutely – or at least, ‘hear’ it in your head, but be sure you hear the words on the page, not what you think you’ve written. For me, it’s the only way to ensure your dialogue doesn’t sound as though your characters are conversing in authentic Klingon.
In the end, though, your writing is your writing. The only way to assemble your personal five tips, I think, is trial and error – learning what works for you, and what to ditch. And what could be more rewarding than that?