New to Writing?
Sometimes, for some people, writing a book is enough and the challenge ends there. Writing can be cathartic; a way of making sense out of randomness. But for those who want an audience for their story, finishing it is just the end of the beginning because now you need your first reader. Handing it over to be read shows you are serious about your work and brave enough to ask for an opinion. Insight is, let’s face it, mandatory in a writer, and what you basically want to know is: am I being self-confident or self-deceptive about my work? In other words, is my book publishable?
You’ve had the tenacity and energy to put together more than 50,000 words and the good news is that every new writer I’ve ever known who has kept at it has been published – without exception. There’s no magic about it; the more you write, the better you get because it is a craft as much as an art. So what I’m looking for in a typescript are the elements that work, the scenes which could be given greater impact and the best ways to strengthen aspects of the plot or characters that might be weak or problematic.
Here’s what you can look out for in your work as you write. Ask yourself whether your characters are proactive or reactive. Protagonists work better when they are proactive, so try not to have them waiting for others to solve their problems/have people rescue them/have them come into money or property as a solution, or be offered a job out of the blue. We want to identify with their struggle and we’re looking for character-building problem-solving. (I mean, that’s the way we would do it, right?)
Check whether your romantic content reflects true love. Telling stories is not the same as telling lies, however sternly your granny puts it. So the conflict in a love story should be believable and stem from the characters rather than from misunderstandings that could be put right by a simple question such as: Are you married? Is the Tiffany ring box in your sock for me? And if the answers are yes and no respectively, lovers should never walk off. They should stay and fight. If you’re writing about love, make it a love worth writing about.
Finally, when you have finished your book, stop being a writer and think like a reader. Be aware of the expectations of the genre you have chosen. Ask yourself a few questions about your writing. Are your characters engaging? Basing a story on unlikeable characters for the sake of conflict is not a good idea. The jeopardy loses its force because the reader thinks: so what? Readers should get involved enough with the characters to care about the outcome, whether they love them or hate them, whether they rooting for rewards or revenge. Give your antagonist a quality that we can relate to. If you have two strong characters with opposing points of view and each with a firm reason behind his beliefs, your reader will become involved in the conflict. And you’ll know you’ve got a good story.
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Your excellent critique given me the confidence to restructure and rewrite…
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- How to Write Romantic Fiction by Jane Bidder (pub Constable and Robinson)