Saturday, November 17, 2012

Reminders for be and would-be novelists

DON'T TELL ME that your lady fair is pretty or beautiful. Let us see the russet tresses flowing over bare shoulders, her green eyes, her wicked (or demure) smile. Or her pink, fuzzy sweaters. You're already getting visions, aren't you? And I'm just throwing out ideas.

Always give the reader something to see, hear, taste, smell or feel, something to remember. An old car is better if it's green and white, if its fenders are a darker shade of green and its tires are shiny whitewalls. Do you see?

Give your writing room to breathe. Don't have pages and pages of blah, blah, blah without switching paragraphs. It's hard to read, and you're not Shakespeare. In fact, Shakespeare wouldn't have been so unkind to his readers.

You don't need attribution for every bit of dialogue, but occasionally help the reader and say who's speaking. Remind your reader who Bessie Mae and Big John Jones are. Be courteous.

Give us drama. Don't give your hero a happy childhood, a happy tour of military duty, a happy marriage and an even happier work life. Make him suffer or worry a bit. Let your reader empathize with him. Give us a reason to read your writing.

Use active verbs. Don't have your hero make his way here and there. Let him amble, stroll, bumble or slither. And occasionally use an interesting word like sumptuous or persnickety. Be interesting.

And let your reader laugh occasionally. Wouldn't Stephen King see humor in horror or J.K. Rowling see something funny or frightening in magic?

Finally, when you're done, quit writing. Edit your book, and when it's ready, find an agent or a publisher. The world is awaiting your book with bated breath.

Or it should be.

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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