10 Tips for becoming a Better Writer by Graeme Ing @GraemeIng
10 Tips for becoming a Better Writer
1. First Sentence, First Page
The first sentence is the most important sentence in your entire book. Agonize over it. Hook the reader immediately with tension, action or a mystery. Don’t hold back.
“Sara gripped the knife and calmed her mind, fully prepared for her third murder that night.”
Make the next sentence as good, and the next. Give the reader no choice but to read on. Don’t inundate with backstory or explanation yet, just unravel one tiny clue after another, drawing the reader into the mystery.
2. Character drives Plot
Don’t think of situations and then force your characters into them or it will sound contrived. Figure out the goals, motivations, fears and weaknesses of your characters and let them drive the plot. Make Mary go into the dark cellar because she’s scared witless that her little sister ran down there, not because you need to get Mary alone with the monster. Joe is terrified to enter the gang house but he must because his brother dared him, and Joe never backs down from a challenge. In every scene, ask, “What is her goal, what is her motivation for being here and doing what she does?”
3. Show Don’t Tell
Don’t write, “Mary was terrified.” That’s telling us, robbing us of the emotional impact. Show us: “Mary clenched her trembling hands, calmed her uneven breathing, and edged along the hallway.”
“The street was dark.” What about, “Gray, shuttered buildings towered over me, seemingly crouching ready to pounce. Shadows pooled in the doorways. What horrors did they conceal?”
People often talk imprecisely. You can make a discussion more interesting if one or both sides are misunderstanding. While it is tempting to write as people speak, cut the verbosity and concentrate on what’s important. Forget the niceties – is this dialog relevant to the plot. Dialog doesn’t have to be 100% realistic – it has to drive the story forward.
Names are rarely used between two people, so don’t overuse them, e.g. “`I don’t know, Mary, why?” or “Joe, can you give me a hand?”
Watch out for buried dialog, which is dialog sandwiched between two pieces of narration in the same paragraph. Put the dialog on its own line. It stands out better. Never have two people speaking in the same paragraph.
Just because you’re proud of your research, don’t regurgitate it on an unsuspecting reader. If Mary mentions an event in her past, don’t spend a page of her reminiscing about if the reader doesn’t need to know right now. Mention only the details that matter at that moment. Chances are, most of that backstory doesn’t need to be told at all. Drive the story forward; don’t slow it down with irrelevant information.
6. Layer Description
Don’t spend a page describing every detail of the room when Mary enters. Write what she immediately notices, just the salient details that give the reader a broad idea. Then layer in more details as you move through the scene, interspersing it with action and dialog. Describe the painting when she looks at it, the food when she eats it.
7. Tension on every Page
Eliminate the boring bits from your story. Chop anything that doesn’t advance plot or characterization, no matter how delightful your prose. Every page needs tension. It doesn’t have to be action. It can be a mystery, an unanswered question, an emotional response, but it must make the reader want to know more.
8. Deep POV
Get deep inside your character’s head. Don’t narrate she did this, and he did this. What does she think about that? How does she react to that? The reader wants to live the story not be told it. Make everything personal to your character.
9. Get Help
Writers need feedback. Find critique partners, a writing group, and/or beta-readers. Let others tell you what works and what doesn’t. After all, we’re all too close to our work.
10. Write. Write. Write
Write as often as you can. Writing is easier when the scene is fresh in your mind. Don’t make excuses. Writing is a muscle. Exercise it. Write. Write some more. Good luck!
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by Graeme Ing
A primeval fiend is loose in the ancient metropolis of Malkandrah, intent on burning it to a wasteland. The city’s leaders stand idly by and the sorcerers that once protected the people are long gone.
Maldren, a young necromancer, is the only person brave enough to stand against the creature. Instead of help from the Masters of his Guild, he is given a new apprentice. Why now, and why a girl? As they unravel the clues to defeating the fiend, they discover a secret society holding the future of the city in its grip. After betrayals and attempts on his life, Maldren has reason to suspect everyone he thought a friend, even the girl.
His last hope lies in an alliance with a depraved and murderous ghost, but how can he trust it? Its sinister past is intertwined in the lives of everyone he holds dear.
Can only evil defeat evil?
At the door, she dragged her heels. “I’ll wait out here until you’re done.”
I tugged her forward.
“It’s too dangerous and I don’t want you out of my sight. You’re my apprentice, so you have to obey.” I winked.
She rolled her eyes but followed me into the dark taproom. I separated our hands as we crossed the threshold. Necromancers don’t hold hands.
The dregs of society were already congregating, weaving drunkenly among stable boys scattering fresh straw. True to the inn’s name, the stench of old vomit mixed with that of stale beer. Arms reached out to paw at Ayla, but when they saw my robe they slunk away into dark corners. I stood tall. Yes, you lecherous mob, the necromancer just stepped into your sleazy world.
There was no sign of the Duke’s men, or anyone else trying to catch my attention. The back stairs creaked and bowed as we ascended, and I didn’t risk putting weight on the unsteady banister. The upstairs hallway was empty, so we strode past several doors that muffled ecstatic cries or snores, and I knocked on the rearmost door.
No answer. Kristach, he’d left.
I pushed it open and froze.
I tried to block Ayla’s view but she slipped past me into the room. She gasped and her hands flew to her mouth. Then she doubled over in a crouch and threw up, spraying her breakfast all over her feet. I hurried inside and shut the door. Thank Belaya she hadn’t screamed, but she uttered a low, haunting moan, at the same time clutching her abdomen and trembling.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Graeme Ing engineers original fantasy worlds, both YA and adult, but hang around, and you’ll likely read tales of romance, sci-fi, paranormal, cyberpunk, steampunk or any blend of the above.
Born in England in 1965, Graeme moved to San Diego, California in 1996 and lives there still. His career as a software engineer and development manager spans 30 years, mostly in the computer games industry. He is also an armchair mountaineer, astronomer, mapmaker, pilot and general geek. He and his wife, Tamara, share their house with more cats than he can count.