Writing Advice

Story Fix The First Five PagesLarry Brooks’ Story Fix: Transform Your Novel from Broken to Brilliant pinpointed what was broken in my story and gave me the tools to… well, “fix” it, specifically in the areas of concept versus premise.

It also did a great job at highlighting the importance of:

  • stakes
  • vicarious experience
  • setting
  • dramatic tension
  • the villain

Thank you very much, Larry.

Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile has helped refine my writing greatly.

The following notes are reminders to myself to put into practice of a few of the suggestions/corrections Mr. Lukeman gives. I hope they encourage you to add this book to your writing toolbox.

Setting

  • Use setting to your advantage. Anchor scenes. Stretch scenes. Be subtle in what you want to convey by making it part of the setting.
  • Don’t get stuck in a rut with just a few settings you constantly return to. Expand the settings you have.
  • Tiny details, sound, smell, touch, sight, taste, weather—all can be used to move the plot and make the story memorable.
  • Characters must interact with the setting.

Characters

  • Keep characters easy and worth the effort. One name per character, introduce characters slowly, and keep them around for more than one scene.
  • Character development and plot development go together. Establish and maintain both.
  • Describe the physical aspects that make a character unique. (re-read this section)

Action

  • Make your subjects and verbs strong, not dependent upon your adjectives and adverbs.
  • Use one adjective or adverb, not a list.

Dialogue

  • You know you have too much dialogue. Loud is the perfect word to describe your piece. Your ears ache, there are so many voices. You have to cut. Cut the commonplace, “real life” baggage.
  • Add action to your identifiers.
  • Use dialogue to define the character, not convey information.
  • Reserve dialogue for vocalizing needs and desires and establishing relationship.
  • Don’t let dialogue narrate the past, future or present.
  • Convey dialect with vocabulary choice, not slang or hard to read spelling.

Drama

  • Don’t be melodramatic.
  • Severely limit your exclamation points.
  • Make sure your dialogue has an arc, even over the stretch of chapters.
  • Use other tools: silence, understatement, sarcasm. Actions speak louder than words.

Show Vs. Tell

  • Show vs. Tell comes down to making your scenes ones people can experience and interpret for themselves without being told what to think.
  • Don’t draw conclusions for readers, but give them the facts in such a way as to allow them to feel and sense what you want to convey.
  • If you let a character/narrator do any telling, do it to reveal personality or character traits.

Technical

  • Colons, dashes, hyphens and parentheses all impact sound.
  • Search for words you overuse.
  • Address the echo affect.
  • Read it all out loud—not a sentence or a paragraph at a time, but large selections.
  • If it doesn’t feel right, don’t rehash it. Cut it first. Does the story read better?

Improve Yourself, Improve Your Writing

  • Kill cliché.
  • Make comparisons and metaphors worth the slow-down impact. Don’t bunch them together.
  • Use one exact, specific word, not multiple vague or general ones.
  • What are you doing to expand your own vocabulary?

Focus on Plot

  • You want to come full circle, so focus your sentences, paragraphs, chapters to maintain theme.
  • Look at the chapter as a whole. If it doesn’t propel things forward, fix or cut.
  • Run-on scenes exist. Fix them by ending earlier or beginning later.
  • Your hook needs to keep hooking. Opening lines, closing lines, paragraphs, chapters—keep hooking by making them great.
  • Get a better grip on subtlety. When you have it, people will want to read your work again.
  • (Re-read about pacing.)

 

And thank you, too, Noah.

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