Serious about starting your novel? Here are three things that will immediately make your writing better.

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You've got an amazing concept for a novel. You've sat down and made notes, and laid in bed and figured out your character. You might even have written the first chapter or two.

You're serious about this writing thing. And you can see you're a pretty good writer too. So there's lots of potential... but equally, you don't want to waste your time.

You'd rather fix problems before they even crop up. You'd rather write well from the beginning, than be edited later and have all sorts of issues that you have to fix.

Peter* was in exactly this situation when he sent us the first nine pages of his novel to evaluate. His story had potential, and he knew who his characters were, but everything was still very much a concept, and an idea. He hadn't quite nutted out his story yet. And from his writing, we could see that he'd be prone to making some beginner mistakes. We emailed Peter this advice.

"The three areas we think you need to work on at this point are: (in order)

1. Story structure. Your synopsis has an interesting concept, but it's not clear to me that it works as a story yet, or that you know quite how it's going to work out.

2. Characterisation - you know your Main character quite well, but there's more he's going to need to bring to this to be believable.

3. What writers call 'show, don't tell'. This is the difference between bringing the reader into the scene and letting them be part of it and experience it for themselves, versus telling the reader exactly what they have to know. 'Showing' involves all the senses and emotions, and cuts to the soul of a reader. 'Telling' means your story stays at a very cerebral level and the reader is emotionally distant.

How to address each one? We'd make these recommendations:


1. Story structure

If you're a reader and you learn well from books, we recommend getting Blake Snyder's book 'Save The Cat'. It's about screenwriting, but his work on the different elements that make up a story are just as relevant to fiction and novels.

 
 

If you're not a reader, and you'd prefer to watch some videos and have some more specific guidance, we'd recommend getting into our online course called 'Structure Your Memoir'. (If you substitute the word 'memoir' with 'fiction' it would work equally well.) It goes through story structure, the low points and the high points and everything you need to put in to make a story hook your readers. The cost of the course is the same as two hours of personal coaching and you get way more value for money. Here's the link: www.redloungeforwriters.com/courses.

 
 

2. Characterisation

I really recommend getting a book called 'Story Genius' by Lisa Cron. It talks about developing character and how to let your story be character driven. It's very practical with exercises and questions. It has revolutionised the writing of more than a few people I've met, including one woman I've edited, who tended to write in a very distant way. Work through that, and your writing will move up 10 notches.

 
 

3. Show, Don't Tell

We've put this third in priority because we think your Character and Structure need to be worked on first, but eventually we will focus on creating 'scenes' and bringing the reader right into them. The second part of our Memoir course (again - substitute 'fiction' for 'memoir') will deal with this in some detail. Otherwise, there is once again a superb book on the subject. This one is called 'Understanding Show Don't Tell and really getting it' by Janice Hardy.

 
 

Don't forget that writing is a skill and a craft like anything else. It takes time and learning to become good at it. The great thing is that if you're serious about it, and do the work, you can become a good writer. And understanding these three writing concepts will get you on your way!"

 

 

*not his real name