Five writing rules that will help you write better and one that needs serious modification
1. Your first three chapters (and sometimes, your first five pages, and sometimes your first page and sometimes your first paragraph) might be the only part of the story that anyone is going to read. The real estate in a novel is very precious but in the beginning, it’s life-and-death to the whole story. Most readers are not going to stick around to see your pushed-around main character kick butt in chapter seventeen if she can’t say boo to a mouse in chapter one. Take the first chance you get to give an indication that this main character is not like any other main character of a similarly themed story. If you can’t tell the reader why she is different, keep working on her until you can. This does not mean to start with an epic anything, see below.
2. Try writing the sequel to the book before going back and editing book one. By the end of the second book, you should be very, very clear on what the book is about. Most opening scenes are a bit muddy as you’re trying to figure the world, the characters and the plot out. Go back and put the characters as you now you understand them better into the first chapter. If you are only writing one book, take the character you know from the end of the book and put in his essence, if not the wisdom he had gained, into the beginning.
3. There is no action, description or narration, there is only point of view. Your point of view character must drive the action. Everything your character sees or does should be filtered through her eyes, her thoughts and her mood at the time. Recording what is happening around the character with perfect clarity is not how we, as people, see things. We only see what has changed or what is important. As a reader, I’m not watching a film. I want to observe the world you’re creating through your main character’s skull. Don’t videotape, transcribe. Write what you your character would know and use Google to doublecheck. You might want to get your work fact checked by someone specifically or you’ll read so many reviews and comments of people going out of their way to mention it until it causes a nervous tick.
4. Introduce the problem only as a tip of the iceberg. Don’t yank the iceberg out of the ocean and have it hanging there to show your main character how big massive the issue is. Most sane people would take one look at the whole thing and think -- rightly -- that it’s just too big for one person to change. Your goal through the book is to reveal how big the iceberg is and how much the main character misjudged the scope of the problem. If you do start out with an iceberg-sized issue, then the problem revealed throughout the book has to be the glacier the iceberg broke off. Never have the same problem in the beginning of the book unchanged at the end of it. Lateral movement on the tension-meter doesn’t affect the reader nearly as much as movement that pushes the story forward.
5. You can’t please everyone and nor should you even try. Pick one person that you know likes your style of books and write for them. There are less than dozen (or so, don’t quote me) truly unique personalities out there. If you’re writing for one of them to like your book personally, a large chunk of the population will feel moved in the same way. This has some limits. The more “unique” your target reader is, the smaller your target audience is. If you’re going after the population that likes to murder indiscriminately and likes to listen to Swedish traditional music, your target audience is reduced Eric Northman from True Blood.
And a rule to avoid:
Start in In medias res. Homer could do it because he was telling fanfic. Everyone knew what was at stake, who all these guys were, what their backstory was and who lost the war. (Spoiler alert: it was the Trojans). So unless you’re writing Avengers fanfic, you need to cool your jets explain who all these people are and why I, as a reader, should care about them before you can cry for Hector on the walls. That big, epic scene you have planned to open your book with a bang with? Keep it for the third chapter so that at the end of it, the agent is reaching for her phone to get the rest of it sent over ASAP. You might think your weeping survivor at the end of a vicious battle might be a foolproof way to get me to care, but as far as I know when the smoke clears, he’s weeping for the lack of innocents to slaughter.
Start small, and build. Start with a minor border skirmish instead of the battle of the bulge. Give the reader an chance to know who this character is, why we should care, and what he’s trying to do….and try to do that in the first couple paragraph. No pressure. Writing is hard, and knowing when to hang your story to begin it is 47% of the job.
Start with a great hook is important no matter where you begin, but once your hook is finished, keep going with it in the present time. I can’t tell you how many fantasies begin with a pretty good hook and then immediately dive into telling reader all they needed to know about the world and the character to explain why the hook was important. Try color-coding your first couple chapters into action that shows what is happening on the page on the page. Highlight all the backstory and world explaining in a color you don’t like. Eliminating the writing in the color you don’t like instantly makes the story flow smoother.
You can break all these rules and still tell a pretty good book and you can follow each rule to a T and still have a bad book. The only thing that is ever truly going to make you a better writer is you, writing.
About the Author
Angela Fiddler wrote her first erotic novel as a birthday present to a friend who had requested kneeling and vampires. While the vampires come and go in the story, the kneeling remains. Angela likes smut, dark humor and stories that mix erotica with raw emotion. She talks about writing and her characters at www.angelafiddler.com.
Her latest book is the paranormal erotica, The Care and Feeding of Sex Demons.
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About the Book
Title: The Care and Feeding of Sex Demons
Author: Angela Fiddler
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Paranormal Erotica
Keeping a sex demon happy and sexually satisfied is always the safest option, even if Cy has his own relationship issues. When saving the world on a regular basis, a happy home is important, especially when mixing human, fae princes and a starving sex demon.