“The desire to write grows with writing.”
Sandra Brown is one storyteller who doesn’t let any grass grow under her feet. She’s the author of 60 New York Times bestsellers and more than 70 million of her books are in print. Recently, I came across some great advice that she gave in The Writer magazine (January 2013). In a nutshell, she believes that as a writer, she has to entertain herself first — and she uses her own level of entertainment and enjoyment as she’s writing as a “barometer” for gauging her reader’s potential interest.
As Sandra says: “If I’m having a good time, then I have to feel as though the reader’s having a good time — or will have a good time. So that’s one thing I’ve learned, and I’ve applied it to my writing. And I do it every day. I say: Is this something I would want to read?” Here are some tips Sandra offered for making a story more compelling:
When you’re bored, boost the action: If your writing feels sluggish, then chances are the reader will see this on the page. So use that as a signal to pump up the pace, throw another obstacle in front of your character, make the dialogue brisker, and take a close look at your action verbs.
Ask yourself why you’re not engaged: If things seem to be dragging, then ask yourself, “OK, why isn’t this scene compelling?” Lackluster dialogue may be the problem. If so, ask yourself: “Can I take out the attributives, which slow down the dialogue? And can I make the sentences shorter? Can I write the dialogue in the way people talk, instead of making it precisely grammatically correct?”
Assess your action verbs: “Instead of walked into the room, can the character stumble or stagger or amble or dash?” What verbs would be more dynamic, more exciting?
Screen your scenes: Ask yourself, “exactly what happens in this scene to propel the story forward? If the scene doesn’t do that, or if the character doesn’t learn something about him or herself in that scene, then it really is wasted space because every single scene should either provide a realization for the main characters or reveal something to the reader that maybe even the main character doesn’t know, or in some other way it has to move the story forward. If it doesn’t accomplish one of those, then why have I bothered? And that’s why it’s not entertaining me anymore, because it doesn’t do anything.”
I think Sandra is right on target when she says that as storytellers, we need to enjoy telling our stories. If we’re getting bored or restless as we’re writing, then it’s likely that our readers will have the same experience as they’re reading. So if you hit a lull in your story, it seems like a smart strategy to stop instead of slogging on and come up with a way to re-energize your writing and re-ignite your own enjoyment. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Write on!