A Few More Writing Tips

Image result for images of bored reader

Spring is coming, and I want to be ready to start writing another book as soon as God gives me something to start with. To that end, I’ve just read The Throne and am now reading The Silver Trumpet, which I wrote last year–the tenth book of my Bell Mountain series. Whatever comes next, I left some matters in Trumpet which will need to be addressed.

By now I’ve had thirteen novels published, including my four horror novels from long ago, and I’ve picked up some tricks of the trade, learning them the old-fashioned way, by experience. I know some of you out there want to try your hands at writing novels, so here are a couple of tips.

*If whatever you happen to be writing seems tiresome to you, it will be tiresome to the reader, too. Trust me on that. If your fictional characters are getting all caught up in details, the reader will abandon them. Don’t devote a lot of space to things that aren’t interesting.

*Remember the rule of Chekhov’s Gun. The great playwright said that if there’s a gun hanging on the wall, sooner or later in the play, one of the characters will have to use it. Otherwise there’s no reason for it being there. (I learned about that, believe it or not, from studying chess: don’t line up your Rooks and Queen unless you mean to use them.)

*Don’t tell the reader a lot of things he doesn’t need to know. If a character walks into the story to say “Here are the gum boots that you ordered, madam,” then leaves and is seen and heard no more, you needn’t tell the reader anything about his kindergarten days. He’s done his job and you’re finished with him.

*I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating–don’t insult the reader by editorializing about the characters. If a character is a villain, you needn’t call him a villain. If he says and does villainous things, the reader won’t need you to tell him that this character’s a villain. I call this “the Lovable Sheepdog Rule,” after a wretched novel in which a certain sheepdog never appeared without the adjective “lovable.” This did not make the sheepdog lovable to me, the reader. It made me want to call the dog-catcher.

If you observe these rules in your own writing, you’ll run much less risk of creating something boring. Readers who are not part of a captive audience–say, a class of high school kids–have a very low boredom threshold. And a writer does well to remember that.

2 comments on “A Few More Writing Tips

  1. I appreciate reading these tips.

    “If whatever you happen to be writing seems tiresome to you, it will be tiresome to the reader, too.”

    That’s one I’ve learned by reading the works of a fiction author that wrote about the world of sports car racing, especially in the ’50s and ’60s. I loved the subject matter and the stories were great; fictionalized accounts involving at least some real people and some real events. The problem was, he belabored the description of every setting and every character, then seemed compelled to copy & past the entire description into the text almost every time that setting or character appeared.

    I read his first series all the way through, but by the second series I closed the first volume, about half-way through, and never looked back. The descriptions had become a chore that one had to perform endlessly, just to get to the next plot event. I cared about at least some of the characters and I was interested in the story, but the descriptions gave one sympathy for the victims of the La Brea Tar Pit.

    The only writing I do involves my work, although I do have the finished text of a music theory book gathering dust somewhere, awaiting illustrations that may never come. One thing I have learned is that whenever I am stuck for words, usually I can backspace to the beginning of that particular sentence and leave that paragraph as is.

  2. very good tips here. Although I have no plans at all for writing fiction, I find it interesting. I used to read volumes of fiction as a young person, and I
    remember what you are talking about.

Leave a Reply