Your Message Must be the Star
Writers love to “impress” others with their writing skills, but when they do so, they’re taking away from their story, which is also their message. When I wrote my first drafts of Lord of Columbia, I found myself trapped in the same issue; I tried using common, yet impressive ways to describe action and even the way my characters spoke.
After a bit, I discovered too many adverbs, adjectives, and different words have the opposite effect. They turn readers off. In today’s society, writers compete for time with the internet, iPads, television, and a slew of other modern gadgets. For this, less is more.
I Should’ve Known
And so should you, as anytime I picked up a book that was loaded with backstory I found myself flipping through the pages to where the inciting incident began. In my first few drafts of Lord of Columbia, the first chapter-and-a-half was loaded with backstory.
After taking a writing course and reading a couple books on writing, I saw readers prefer action, and if you’re looking to publish traditionally, editors and agents look for the same thing. I should’ve known, because I looked for the same. If nothing was going on except a lot of narration and telling, I’d shelve the book and find something else before settling on a book loaded with action, and I don’t mean melodramatic action; just the characters doing things.
Lord of Columbia
My contemporary fantasy trilogy has gone through several revisions, but before I launch in September, it’ll go through a few more. I want action, action, and more action. The more action, the better. Heck, the more dialogue, the better.
Here’s a list of what I’ve been doing to improve Lord of Columbia:
1) Eliminating dialogue tags when possible and deepening my main character’s point-of-view. While I’m not deep POV expert yet, I’m looking to get as deep as I can and for my readers to resonate with my POV character.
2) Eliminating adverbs and adjectives. I believe all adverbs can be eliminated. As for adjectives, I describe just enough for my reader to get an idea what my characters look like, but I want their mind to go to work and see my characters in their own way. This stems from me picturing overly-descripted characters from novels I’ve read in the past. I’m zero fan of authors describing characters in-depth. Again, this is where I usually stop reading.
3) Letting backstory emerge. So, I took chapter one and inserted much of the backstory in dialogue throughout the first two acts of the book. This way, the reader wouldn’t feel as if I’m dumping information and could process backstory in a timely manner without needing to invest in a notepad.
4) I stopped telling. One big mistake I made with early drafts of Lord of Columbia was telling what happened. So, I started showing characters in action, as mentioned previously; I prefer action over telling, so why was I making the same mistake?
5) On the nose writing. You don’t need to describe say, an office scene in detail. We know what an office looks like. You don’t need to describe a sporting event in detail. Again, we know. One thing I did early was I slowed the story down by trying to describe everything in a room and giving off so much stage direction the reader would’ve likely forgot why they were reading my story in the first place.
My tips here are what I used to improve the quality in Lord of Columbia. Using tricks to my trade, I was able to tell a faster story, get to the point from page one, and hopefully, when released, hook the reader from beginning to end.