Monday, February 19, 2007

Writing Tip #1

Recently, I've been receiving manuscripts to edit from aspiring writers. Although the manuscripts are from different writers with different storylines, the areas for improvement are similar. Initially, I found myself practically re-writing the material trying to fill in the gaps. The first manuscript that I edited took eight solid hours on just the first chapter. By the time I finished, I had added several pages and felt as though I was re-writing the novel. Then I stopped myself and stepped back from the manuscript. Rather than redo another writer's work, I decided to take off my writer's hat and become an editor. That's when I realized that the role of a writer is clearly different than an editor's role. As a writer, I wanted to write. As an editor, I needed to edit. That's it. Leave the writing to the writer.

For aspiring writers, I recommend showing rather than telling. As tempting as it may be to throw in a bunch of narratives to explain particular actions or events, it's far more compelling to show the reader. Allow the story to unfold. One of my favorites is progressing the story through dialogue. It gives you insight into the character without making it seem like an afterthought. If dialogue doesn't move the story along, it needs to be changed or omitted. Another thing, conversations between the characters should flow naturally. Dialogue shouldn't seem forced or disjointed. Last, give your characters distinct voices. They shouldn't all "sound" the same. Give each character their own personality and allow it to come to "life" when they speak.

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