Some Dos and Don’ts to help your writing

Some Dos and Don’ts to help your writing

September 10th, 2014 // 12:26 pm @

  1. Do remember that if you’ve just finished the first draft of your novel it probably needs extensive reworking and several more drafts before it’s ready to send to an agent. But don’t be discouraged. You wouldn’t expect to sell for thousands of pounds the first picture you’ve ever painted, would you?
  2. Do read other works in the genre you want to write in, and look carefully at each book as you read. Is this book making you turn the page, wanting to know what happens next? If so, how is this achieved? Make notes.
  3. Do watch your writing style. A good rule is: never use a long word if you can use a short one, and never use two words where one will do. Cut out all adverbs and as many adjectives as possible.
  4. Do use dialogue to help characterisation. Americans and Australians don’t talk the same way as Londoners; foreigners are likely to misplace or mispronounce words. A feisty character probably swears a bit; a gentle one may talk hesitantly.
  5. Do write biographies of your main characters before you start your book. You need to know them intimately, so that you can write about their strengths and failings, and show their emotional development as they progress through the story.
  6. Do write an attention-grabbing first sentence – and then hang on to the reader’s attention! You have only one chance to impress an agent and they have so many manuscripts to get through that they’re looking for any excuse not to read your story. Don’t give them that excuse.
  7. Don’t change viewpoint. Decide who is telling the story (usually the protagonist) and try to stick with their viewpoint all the way through. You can get away with two or three viewpoints in a novel, but if you are having more than one, don’t change halfway through a scene, and make sure the reader knows right from the start who the hero is.
  8. Don’t forget to check facts and continuity. If you’re writing about New York police chasing a suspect through the city, get the police procedure right, and know the names of the streets they’re driving through. Otherwise the reader will lose belief in your storytelling and won’t bother to finish the book. Likewise, if the heroine was once engaged to a man with sea-blue eyes, and he reappears much later in the story, make sure his eyes are still blue.
  9. Don’t use clichés, exclamation marks or ‘purple prose’.
  10. Don’t send your manuscript to an agent before you’re sure that the book is as good as it can possibly be: good plot, well structured with lots of conflict rising to a climax as close to the ending as possible; characters well defined so that the reader knows who’s talking just from the dialogue; facts, spelling, grammar and punctuation correct. You’re asking them to invest thousands of pounds in your product: don’t you want it to be as perfect as possible?
  11. Don’t be discouraged if you get a rejection; don’t give up. Writing, like any other art form, takes a lot of practice.

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