Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Questions from Readers, Mistakes (Part 3 of 12)

Still Mistakes Beginning Writers Make

7. Their writing drags. This is no longer the day when readers will allow people five pages to get the protagonist out of bed in fiction. Nor will they slog through four pages of philosophical ideas that prompted them to write their nonfiction ideas.

We live in the digital age and you need to keep the prose moving. Elmore Leonard once said he left out the parts that most people skip.

Here are my suggestions for picking up the pace.

Nonfiction:
  • Don’t play cute and delay giving the information. If it’s a how-to article or book, start right off with answering how to accomplish the task.
  • Don’t hold back significant information. “If I tell them too much in the first three chapters,” one writer said, “they might not finish the book.” I responded with, “Then condense those three chapters into one solid article.”
  • Don’t explain too much. The more inexperienced the authors, the more they tend to state the obvious.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Leave plenty of eye space.
Fiction:
  • Start with action/drama—something actually happening in the first paragraph.
  • Cut dull, information-only scenes. Either let the characters mention those issues or give it to us briefly—very briefly.
  • Don’t slow down your pace with backstory—telling what happened to a character in the past.
  • Make the end of every scene and every chapter conclude in such a way you entice readers to keep turning pages. 
  • Constantly ask yourself, “Why would readers care about my major character?”

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