The more I write, the more writing tips I collect. These little tips distill much larger thoughts on the writing craft down to understandable ideas, and I’m going to share a few with you over the next weeks. And if you are on Pinterest, check out my story boards on writing tips (thanks to Deb Gonzales!)
Before You Write A Word
Spend time thinking about your story before you begin your first draft. Distill your idea – the kernel of the idea that sparks your interest – into a couple of sentences and then let things simmer. Why?
Because your subconscious mind will chew on the idea, and you’ll be surprised by how many things float into view. As an example, when I began writing The Artifact Hunters, I knew that it would be a sequel to The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle; I knew that my main character would be a boy; I knew that clocks had to be involved in some fashion, because I wanted to play with time travel; and I knew it would be set a couple of years later than Charmed Children.
As I let the idea simmer, without warning or searching on my part, I stumbled upon the death’s head watch. I hadn’t known these watches existed, never mind how they looked. The watch became the centerpiece of the story, and as a magical artifact, inspired the notion of the Vault of Magical Artifacts and then the entire story unspooled before I began to write.
As another example, I thought about my forthcoming novel Carry Me Home for almost five years before I knew how to write it, and that time allowed me to write the novel in a month.
When You Begin To Write
Remember that whoever your main character is, he or she has had a life before your story. This is what we mean when we say that a story begins in medias res – in the middle of things. Your character has a past, and the start of your story propels them into a new situation. That “newness” and the unbalancing of your character should start on page one of the story, in order to draw your reader right in. (For more on hooking the reader, see my Medium post on this subject.)
In other words, don’t start with throat-clearing, i.e., description, long narrative explanations, etc. Start with a problem, presented to a character who is fully formed by her past experiences.
So, my three hot writing tips for this week:
- Think before you write.
- Hook the reader on page 1, with a problem.
- Present that problem to a fully formed character.
Let me know what you think!