Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday's Tip for Writers #5 -- Read, Write, Listen, and Learn

If I were the type to make New Year's resolutions, my writing resolutions for '09 would be:

1. Write more fresh material
2. Read more widely
3. Listen to what readers say about the novels they enjoy
4. Learn from items 1, 2, and 3

The past couple years, I let too many activities put the big squeeze on the amount of time I spend working on my own writing. That changes in '09. I'm almost certain that to be considered a writer, one must write.

Reading current best-sellers in or near my chosen genre is very useful, but there are benefits to reading classics outside my genre too. I'm currently reading my first Agatha Christie novels, and seeing how she holds a reader's attention and keeps us involved is a great learning experience, even though I'm not a mystery writer. Good writing applies to any genre.

Knowing your target audience is great, but listening to them is better. My partner, Jack, is my valued first-reader, so I benefit from his impressions of my novels, but he also offers me more. Jack's not only a careful and thorough reader, he's got a knack for pinpointing exactly what he likes about any novel he reads. That's useful information for a writer. An added bonus is that he doesn't read like a writer (you writers out there know what I mean). Jack is part of my target audience, so his impressions are gold, whether they're about my novels or someone else's.

Writing, reading, and listening more are great goals for '09, especially if I actively learn from the experiences. Of course, my writing won't improve if I don't put what I learn into practice, so maybe I need a fifth resolution this year. Er-- I mean-- Maybe I would need a fifth resolution. You know, if I were a resolution-making kind of guy.

I hope you're all resolved to ending '08 safely and having a wonderful '09.

happy new year

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday Tip for Writers #4 - The Unexpected

Not only am I showing up with a Tuesday's tip on Wednesday, I plucked it from the comment trail over at Everyday Bloggers. In the Getting Unstuck post, comments led to the "dreaded next-scene syndrome," that point in a first draft where writers end a scene and then wonder where do they go from here.

My tip: Do the unexpected. Come up with a surprising plot twist and run with it. This method doesn't always work, but when it does, it can influence and benefit the entire novel.

The unexpected event doesn't have to be HUGE. A body doesn't need to fall out of the sky. A character doesn't need to suddenly drop dead. Don't rule those things out, of course. *smile* But the unexpected element can be as subtle as a character's sudden revelation, either something that occurs to them or something revealed to the reader about them, perhaps something from their childhood that has shaped their adult self. Just be sure it's something the reader--and you, the writer--didn't see coming.

Adding the element of surprise to most any genre novel can be a good thing. Most readers like to be kept on their toes. Most writers too.