As with anything these days, the age of information gives us a lot of information. For authors, this is no different. When it comes to learning effective writing strategies, we’re bombarded with information overload sure to cause the majority of us to burrow into a hole and await next spring when a new hope arrives.
Or, you can simply go to places like JerryJenkins.com, The Creative Penn, and other places and learn how to write. Maybe even take a course or two, or just read a few blogs.
My Freedom Flame is designed to help you out with this, so without further ado, let’s get started with some writing strategies you can implement tomorrow.
Hook Your Reader!
Yes, the first thing you need to become an effective author or writer is to hook your reader from page one and never let go.
This means starting with some sort of action or foreshadowing, drawing the reader in.
In Northern Knights, I did this from page one when Lira warned Cain not to use his element-bending ability in public or face arrest and possible prison sentencing.
But, you need to do more than hook from the beginning. You need to create problems for the protagonist, usually set up by the antagonist or a misdeed from the protagonist, to keep the reader hooked for the long haul.
Northern Knights is 385 pages long, so you can bet I had to create more than a few situations for Cain and his friends, some of which mattered between life and death just to grasp the scope.
If you want to learn more on how to hook your reader, visit my product review, link below, for Hooked by Les Edgerton. In it, Edgerton touches up on how you can hook your reader throughout and for those traditionally published authors, how to get published again and again.
Don’t Tell Us, Show Us
A reader is reading your work for the experience, not to admire your writing or anything else these days.
Because us authors are in competition with the computer I’m writing this article on. There are hundreds of ways to be entertained these days so, give people a reason to gravitate toward your work.
How do the best writers succeed?
They give the reader the ultimate experience as if they’ve been sucked into the story.
Think of your favorite works and how you felt you were there experiencing things.
Do the same here with gaining a readership.
Use action, not just sentences or phrases, to explain things.
Don’t say ‘it was cold.’ Show that it’s cold by having your character bundle up and thrust their hands into their pockets.
Ditto for heat. It’s not hot if you say ‘it was hot.’ Talk about how sweat is pouring from the character’s body, mention they’re wearing a tank top, shorts, and sunglasses. Maybe they’re down in South Beach, Florida? Show us and let us experience it.
Omit Needless Words
Newsflash, but being wordy isn’t going to win over any readers. Not just that, your work is far less powerful. For instance, don’t say something like,
‘Cain followed Lira up the winding hill where he saw the apex just visible a few hundred yards in front of him.’
Imagine reading a novel where every sentence resembled this. It’d be a chore for the reader.
Try something like this,
‘Cain followed Lira up the winding hill where the apex appeared a few hundred yards ahead.’
The second sentence contains six fewer words than the previous, a 27.3% reduction in word usage.
Think of it this way: The fewer words you need, the more power you’ll bring to the story.
I also want to draw on a few more points here which I’ll hit up on in later articles.
Notice I cut the word ‘just,’ which is a hedging word. Don’t say they just did this or just did that. Either they did something or they didn’t. Again, I’ll write a full article on words you shouldn’t overuse in your text, including but not limited to that, only, barely, almost, and just.
Also, I eliminated ‘Cain looked’ because I’m in his point-of-view. This is an article I’m going to crush maybe even as soon as tomorrow. When we’re in point-of-view, stay deep! Minimize the number of times you go distant with point-of view to keep the reader engaged.
Again, for more information on keeping the reader engaged, click below for my review of Hooked, which specializes in reader engagement.
Be Active, Not Passive
Finally, don’t write in ways a journalist does, which is passive language. In fact, don’t write in ways people talk.
For instance, I struggled with this in Northern Knights due to my sports subplot as in early drafts, I tried to imitate ways a sports caster might call a game.
Instead of saying things like ‘Cain was brought down by Scotty Volt after jumping up to catch the ball’ I’ll instead say ‘Cain caught the ball and Scotty Volt leveled him.’
Notice how much more power the second phrase brings.
Here’s another example.
‘Cain threw the ball downfield where it was caught by Savannah.’
Instead, let’s make this phrase more powerful.
‘Cain threw a dart downfield and Savannah caught it.’
Or for more power.
‘Savannah caught Cain’s bullet downfield.’
Notice something else. I used stronger words, like bullet or dart instead of pass. For those who love sports scenes, this is a good way to add some theatrics. When one thinks of a dart or a bullet, they think of a fast throw.
Or, I could say that ‘Cain threw a rainbow downfield and Savannah caught it.’
Or, ‘Savannah caught Cain’s rainbow.’
Again, readers would associate a rainbow with a downfield lob, usually an arching pass. Words like a Hail Mary, bomb, or something similar fit the mold as well.
This allows the writer to be more descriptive without using more words than necessary.
Put it Into Practice
Okay, peeps, now it’s your turn. Take what you learned and put the work into practice. What you need to do is take your first draft or completed manuscript and:
1: See where you’re passive and reword each sentence.
2: Omit needless words like just, that, only, almost, and others like them. Again, I’ll write a complete article on this subject in time.
3: Show, don’t tell. If something is this or something is that, show it, don’t tell it. If someone said something angrily, show it by putting the characters in action.
4: Be active, not passive. Get rid of phrases saying that the book was read by the teacher. Just say the teacher read the book.
5: Get rid of weak nouns and verbs and opt for something more powerful. Let the reader experience that power.
Now, go out, fix your mistakes, and compare how much better your work reads after implementing my five tips. Oh, and if you haven’t done so yet, check out Hooked by Les Edgerton.