I recently met with my book club for writerly types, where we’re reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Confession, I hadn’t actually done the reading, but as I was flipping through the chapter and seeing highlights I’d made my first time through the book, I was reminded of some of my aha! moments.
Leave Room for the Reader.
Readers are smart (even/especially young readers). One of the worst mistakes you can make is to underestimate their intelligence. Not only will they be annoyed, but they’ll also get bored. To engage readers, you need to give them an active role in the story. Make them work for it. What’s the point of reading a story if you’re not going to be inspired/changed/horrified/heartbroken by the end of it? (more…)
Start with a germ, build to a story.
I don’t know about you, but when I started writing, I don’t think I really understood the difference between a concept and a story. In practice what this meant is that I would get super excited about a concept (vampire office worker, man-eating mermaids, etc.). Drunk with enthusiasm, I would dive in and write and write and write, and somehow I would never quite move beyond the concept to the story. Sure, I might have written a few decent scenes that captured the quiet desperation of my office drone vampire, but that was it. Nothing happened. Concepts by nature are flat, one-note flashes of inspiration until they’re fleshed out, but it took me dozens of drafts (a few finished, most abandoned midway) to realize why my stacks of manuscript pages never felt like real novels. (more…)