By K.A. Magrowski
One of the advantages of helping run a large and successful writing group is getting to meet and schedule so many great authors to give talks and presentations. The South Jersey Writers’ Group has hosted many wonderful authors who have given talks on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and the joys of creativity. Each time, beforehand, I think, what can this person possibly tell me that I haven’t heard or read before?
Each time I am pleasantly surprised, and hearing Robin Lovett speak was no exception. Robin spoke on writing that “unputdownable” book that will hook editors, agents, and readers and how to turn a good story into a great one. So, you may be asking, how does one do that? Well…
Don’t neglect Emotion
The more we emotionally connect to a character, the more invested we are in a book and the less likely we will want to put it down. We will need to keep reading to find out what happens and, more importantly, how the characters will be affected. Emotion brings each scene alive and each scene should be a journey.
How can we convey emotion? Body language, tone of voice, the visceral response of the character, their internal thoughts and mental journey. Think of acting – how would this play out in a movie? How would I, if I were the character as an actor, make this face? How would I feel? How would I perform that motion?
If you hook the reader in the gut, chances are they won’t want to put the book down. If they must, they will continue thinking about it. I know I have read books where both during and afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters. Driving, working, cooking. Sometimes all that took second place (at least for a while) to the novel or story.
Turn up the Conflict and Tension
When writing, we also should be thinking, what’s the worst that can happen? How can I increase the conflict and tension? How will my characters react to what’s happening? There should be a crisis moment in every scene. Of course, this doesn’t mean someone getting killed or an explosion, but something crucial to the character, something important. And here’s the important part: the reader must know/understand why this scene is crucial, why what is happening is significant.
This blog post cannot convey the best part of Robin’s presentation. Her absolute and utter passion and joy for what she does. Part of my day job sometimes involves getting up in front of people and providing training or education and I was literally taking notes on how to engage a crowd from her. I could feel her enthusiasm seeping into the group and being reflected back.
I’d like to part with a few tidbits Robin gave on how to be better writer (who doesn’t want to know “the secrets” of a successful writer, right?)
- Know your genre and subgenre
- Know the current work being written and what agents and editors (and readers!) want (personally I think this important, not so much so we can copycat the latest success story, but just so we are aware of trends. You can’t break the rules until you know them.)
- Always keep on learning
- Find what fuels you to write
- Be willing and ready to accept critique to make your story the best it can be
Best of all and most importantly - Give your story the respect and the time it deserves! Don’t rush to publish (or pitch) without a genuine effort at receiving feedback, rewriting, and editing. Remember only you can tell the story inside of you so make sure it reflects the best you are capable of at that time!