Advice for New Writers

fileId:3096224744021103;size:full;In my “day job” as an electrophotographic engineer, numerous emails are exchanged each day. Sometimes, when discussing a topic, such as transmission density or fusing quality, I sense a “writer’s voice” within the technical flurry of words. Occasionally, I ask the sender if they’ve done any writing. A year ago, a colleague answered, “I loved to write in high school, but I just don’t have time anymore!” She was extraordinarily busy, mothering an active two-year-old, commuting over an hour a day, managing the household meals, as well as holding down a full-time managerial job.

 

I knew she was overloaded, but sensed a unique talent in her words. I didn’t hesitate.

 

“Just write,” I said. “Take fifteen minutes at lunch each day. Just do it.”

 

“But what would I write about?” she asked. “I have no idea where to start!”

 

“Write whatever comes into your head. It doesn’t matter what it is. Once you get going, it’ll just flow out of you. You don’t need a plan. Just do it.”

 

She wrote during a break the next day and sent me a page of lovely prose. I encouraged her to continue. We began to exchange writing daily, swapping edits and chapters with glee. Mind you, this was as good for me as it was for her. She had talent. And lots of it.

 

Six months later, she completed the manuscript for her first novel, a historical time-travel piece. She’s submitting it to publishers as I write this.

 

As time progresses, I collect little buds of knowledge through my association with other writers, continued voracious reading, and through the process of relentless writing.    

 

 

Following are ten suggestions that can help a young writer tone up his or her skills.   

 

1) Just write. To start, write for a few minutes every day. If your passion is genuine, you’ll find that you can’t stop! You’ll find a way to make it happen. I schedule very early mornings for writing, from 4:00 to 6:00 AM. It’s the only quiet time in my hectic life and I couldn’t accept spending less time with my wife, daughters, or grandsons. So, I go to bed early and forget about TV. What’s more important? In doing so, I’ve produced eleven novels in a bit over six years.  

2) Cut out the flowery stuff. I adore adjectives and adverbs, and I ache to describe scenes in lush detail. But in the end, I hack away at all the excess. If you read a line out loud and it feels stilted – stop! Take out all the extra words that slow you down, and just tell the story. Use the descriptors sparingly. I’ve found that after writing eleven books, my style has become simpler and more streamlined. I’m going back now and red-lining much of the early work before it reaches the bookstores. It hurts like hell to do it, but it’s absolutely necessary.  

3) Observe, observe, observe! Soak in every tiny detail that surrounds you. Colors, textures, sensations, expressions, birdsongs, sunlight, and the ground you walk on… notice everything, and brand it into your brain for that next chapter you’re going to write.  

4) Listen to the voices! Listen to the grocery clerk, the bank teller, children at play, professors, grandparents, and neighbors… listen! You’ll never create natural dialogue without listening – hard!  

5) Tap into your emotions. When someone close to you dies, it’s an overwhelming, dreadful experience. But, the same emotions that flatten you at that time will be indispensable when you write about loss. Recreating the deep-seated feelings will make your book come alive and ring true with readers. 

6) Make your characters feel deeply and give them a rich history. This takes time and is particularly important if you’re writing a series. If readers don’t care about the characters, they won’t come back for more. Don’t worry about defining them in detail in the beginning – just start writing and they will develop. You can always go back and add more detail that supports your character’s growth. 

7) Perfection comes later. Just get it out there, get it down on paper. Then, when you go back to it, hack away at the unnecessary prepositional phrases and the ungainly adverbs, extract those awkward scenes that stand out like sore thumbs, and supplement those that seem abrupt. Then, set it aside for a while. After I’ve completed a novel, I put it down and start on the next one. Many months later, I’ll come back to it. It’s best if I don’t remember much (I’m often surprised at how much I’ve forgotten!) as that’s when one is in the best position to challenge one’s own work. Sometimes I’ll be surprised at an unusually eloquent passage, or humiliated by a flimsy section through which I obviously rushed. That’s the time to roll up your sleeves and be ruthless! Cut out the excess and fortify the weak! 

8) Find a skillful editor. I’ve been lucky. I have writer/reader friends with eagle eyes who will scour my manuscripts and be brutal where necessary. Try to find one person who is willing to follow along with the book as you create it. That’s the best way to start. Share this service. Swap chapters as soon as they’re done. That’s what I do with my friend, Jeanne. She is a talented writer and a superb editor. She catches things I’d never notice, and I do the same for her. We aren’t shy about helping – if a passage sounds stilted, she tells me immediately! If I want to “see” more of the details in a scene, I ask her to elaborate. It works extremely well. Then, when the book is in a reasonable shape, I send it to my friend, Ray, who is a fine author in his own right. He goes through with a fine-toothed comb and imparts writing gems in the process. I call him, “The Master!” If it weren’t for them, my books would stink. Well, maybe that’s a little extreme, but I’ve learned so much from them that the finished manuscripts read more smoothly and are of higher quality. I also have an “inner circle” of readers who’ve traveled with me through the series far in advance of publishing. They keep me honest and provide feedback about the characters that they’d come to love.  

9) Maintain the tension. You want your readers to need to read more. Keep up the pace. Make it flow seamlessly from chapter to chapter. And try to avoid unnecessary excursions into boring territory. I use lots of dialogue; it moves the book along quickly. Short chapters also help the reader feel as if he’s made progress. Readers say that with short chapters they’re more apt to think, “Just one more chapter before I go to bed.” Of course, if the tension and suspense are stimulating, your poor readers will stay up way past bedtime!  

10) Polish it ‘til it shines. Don’t send in anything but your best work, buffed to perfection. You may have to go through it dozens of times, but it’s worth it. Have your friends and family do the same. Each time they scour through it, they’ll find something new. It seems endless. But if you keep at it, you will produce a superior product.     

 

www.legardemysteries.com

www.aaronlazar.blogspot.com

www.mooremysteries.com

About the Author ()

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries, Moore Mysteries, and Tall Pines Mysteries enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow

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