Fine-tune your writing to draw attention from discerning readers.
For writers who are looking to do their best and be competitive in today’s market, there are several things they should look at to fine-tune their writing.
First, are your plot and characters realistic? This is a tough one for many, but the greatest way to achieve a believable story is to simply be observant. You have a valuable asset…life experience, you know, that thing that happens to you which doesn’t necessarily resemble anything that you planned ahead of time? To young writers, recognize that you already have unique life experiences with which to fashion your writing, but also, don’t discount experiences yet to come. Treasure them and the wisdom they will add to your work.
To hone the finer points of your storytelling, be sure to utilize the many excellent resources available. I’m not just talking about the ol’ dictionary and thesaurus, valuable as they are. This seems to be an obvious piece of advice, I know, but I’m continually surprised at how many writers ignore it. In this day and age, no one has any excuse for not accessing resources to help them learn about good writing. If you’re reading this, it means you have an internet connection, and that is your doorway to the world, regardless of your means. There are free tutorials that expound on every aspect of writing, from the seed of the first idea, to navigating the wilds of the publishing industry and everything in between. There are authors’, agents’, and editors’ blogs by the thousands. There are myriad forums and groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Goodreads, among others, where industry people gather for discussion. Think of the web as a big stadium full of people. You only need to drift through the crowd striking up conversations, announcing what your specialty is, and asking for directions to find your corner of the stadium where your kind of people are meeting.
Another invaluable task is to become familiar with how good language sounds. You must feed it into your subconscious. If you want to be a good writer, read other good writers and see how they do it. If you want to be a bestselling author, read other bestselling authors. They’ve trodden the path before you; they know the way. Humble yourself enough to admit that, even if you don’t personally like all their books, they really do know what they’re doing.
You will, of course, develop your own style and be unique. But if you truly want to keep the readers’ attention, there are fabulous ways to do it, and although they are subtle and not readily visible to the untrained eye, they are not secret ways. All the good authors know them, and you can learn them too. The best part is, you don’t always have to be consciously looking for them. As you read your favorite kinds of books, lots and often, and just have fun and enjoy them, you will be filling your subconscious mind with masterful storytelling. You will get used to how good language is supposed to sound. It will become second nature to you, one of those things that you learn without even knowing you’re learning.
Observe what the greats do to grab readers’ interest. You can do this by writing reviews of the novels you read. Writing both book and movie reviews and critiques is a great way to analyze the material and see what you gained from it. Pay attention to details, like plot points, lighting and sets, costumes, acting and direction, and notice how the filmmakers used those things to illuminate a character, keep the audience’s attention focused, lead them in intended directions, and touch their heart in particular and desired ways.
Next, you must learn to open yourself up and put the proverbial pen to paper uninhibited. One of the best ways to practice that is by keeping a personal journal. This is where you’ll learn to freely vomit words onto the page. You can sort out all the words later. In your journal you will write for yourself, not editors or publishers. Say things however you want to. Construct sentences however they sound best at the time, without a thought to if they are correct or not. Express yourself.
Think you don’t have much to write about in your own life? Wrong! You’re a storyteller. You have lots of thoughts, all day every day. Start writing them down. Mince no words. Tell what you think of the world and the people in it. Then apply the same uninhibited behavior towards your novels. Write it the first time for yourself, then the second and all subsequent times for agents, editors, publishers, and the readers.
Next, you need…practice. That’s right, simple practice and lots of it. All those stories you started and didn’t finish? Or the ones you finished, but they were lame and took up residence in the circular file? That was not wasted effort. Not at all. Keep drilling yourself, every day, and you will be able to look back and see your own improvement. Be proud of those full wastebaskets. At least you’re making the effort.
Lastly, while another pair of eyes will be needed to edit your work, they can only do so much to your book. Give them your best work to start out with by learning to identify many of your own errors. A good way to do this is by editing others’ work. Try trading off with a writer friend. Editing for others is a good way to see what you could be doing better in your writing.
If you are passionate about something and willing to put in as much work as necessary for as long as necessary, those experiences will naturally come to you, and it’s your job to grab them and build on them to reach the heights you’re capable of. You’ll be surprised at just how high you can go.