Uber fantastic editor Christie Stratos has been gracious enough to guest blog for me today! She did the proofreading for my novel It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy and was an absolute delight to work with. You can catch up with Christie here:
I’m sure Christie has seen a lot of no-no’s from authors so here are a few tips from her about how not to write a novel. I hope you enjoy!
How (Not) to Write Novel
There are tips upon checklists upon paragraphs of advice on how to write a novel. But how shouldn’t you write a novel? While it’s great to take whatever pearls of wisdom you can from seasoned experts and bloggers, it’s equally important to consider the things you shouldn’t do. Ever.
Don’t Take the Easy Way Out
Of course authors should never leave their readers hanging and should always tie up loose ends. One expert at that is JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series. At the end of every Harry Potter book, Rowling ties up loose ends you didn’t even remember existed. But beyond that, what about loose ends in the middle of the book? More and more, there are authors who get their characters into tricky situations, leave off right before the consequence is shown or the conflict occurs, and pick up afterwards, barely touching on what happened in that exciting scene the reader was waiting for. And they never go back to explain what happened. Not only is this a cheap way to get out of resolving a difficult situation for your characters and providing a scene that satisfies your reader, but it weakens both the story and the reader’s belief in you as an author. Don’t fall prey to this mistake – even if it takes several attempts and rewrites, write the scene.
Stop Following the Trend
Did you ever notice that the vast majority of historical fiction novels that take place in medieval times have a female main character who reads more books than society says is normal and always is more intelligent than expected for her sex? I don’t know about you, but it’s getting tedious and predictable. Once something has been done so often, it becomes cliché. Why write something thousands of others have written? Can you imagine how many readers you could attract with a premise or character who doesn’t follow the norm? Stop copying, start creating.
Cut the Extras
See how I did that? I didn’t name this section “Cut the Extra Words Out Of Your Novel”. Not only is that duller, but it’s longer and has unnecessary words. Your novel should be like the title of this section. Every word should count and every paragraph should move the story forward or develop the character. If it doesn’t, it’s unnecessary, and your reader will find unnecessary bits tedious. Cut every section, paragraph, sentence, and superfluous word. And don’t look back.
What’s the Point?
If you have to answer this question in more than one sentence about any given plotline or character, it’s not clear enough in your mind and, therefore, won’t be clear to your readers. Either something is not explained well in the plot or the character is superfluous. For the former problem, consider the following questions about your story: what are you as a writer trying to accomplish? What is going to happen to the main character? What mechanics could be missing in your story to help achieve your goals as a writer and sharpen the plotline so that the point of the story is clear? For the latter problem, sometimes adding in a subplot and referencing it relatively frequently can help add purpose to a character.