Those were the books that you couldn’t put down at three in the morning. They made you laugh and cry, and desperate to get the next one in the series. You could vividly see what was going on. So what made these books different from other novels?
Well. Sometimes the plot is just so stunning you can’t help but admire a novel, and yes, how a plot is worked greatly adds to this.
Sometimes it’s the characters, and how relatable or loveable, or even hate worthy they are.
Sometimes it’s the setting. The world building. How absolutely gorgeous the whole place is.
But… even when the above three are absolutely stellar, it’s the actual writing that seals the deal.
So how do I write in such a way that I draw readers in and make them invested in my novel, you ask?
Good question. Every writer is constantly asking this question – trying to perfect the art of writing compelling stories – and figuring out new and better ways to do this as they go.
There are a lot of different components that go into a stellar piece of writing, and in the upcoming weeks, I’m going to be talking about some of the tips and tricks that I personally have come across (either by my own findings, or from the help of those more practiced than me).
To start off, let’s go through a list of words you can cross out of your novel or piece of writing and instantly make it a stronger work.
Unless it is dialogue (someone specifically says these words as part of their character), you don’t want to resort to these “lazy” words. Describe what stuff! Describe the things! Stuff and Things are both vague words and can definitely be improved on.
2. ‘Be’ verbs!
This is a huge one!!!! Trust me, I struggle with this one a lot. Be verbs are the lazy replacement for good writing, description, and strong action verbs. No, there aren’t any synonyms to easily replace them with… but reworking them out of a sentence will make your piece stronger.
Ex. “I was afraid.” Don’t immediately try to just replace “was” for another word (I highly doubt you’ll find a good substitute). Instead, rethink your sentence. “I was afraid.” is much stronger rewritten as: “My heart pounded against the bars of my ribcage and my hands became clammy.” (This will also add more ‘showing’ into your novel and get rid of some of the ‘telling’).
Again, another lazy word that is a lot like ‘was’, ‘am’, ‘stuff’, etc. Try not to use it! You can add more details in replace of this word, and details are what make your world more believable, complex, and relatable.
Don’t say “I went to school”, at the very least say “I biked to school”, or “I took the bus to school”. But even better, try adding in a scene on the way to school to get more acquainted with your character. Talk about the bus ride. Mention the smell of the seats, the squeal of the tires. Talk about the kid spitting wads of paper at the back of your head.
Unplanned scenes are sometimes the best ones, and you may discover a scene you hadn’t thought existed. Try it!
4. “Smile and/or nod”
Oh man I can’t even express this one enough. Writers, me included, tend to like to make their characters smiling bobble heads. We don’t even notice it. The natural response to anyone saying anything seems to be to smile and nod… and it is such an easy catch to get into!
Smiling and/or nodding is fine… just as long as it doesn’t happen all through your book, to the point that it gets awkward and annoying because readers notice that your characters seem to fall back on this a lot.
Your characters are supposed to be different, so make them different! Give them different responses to what people are saying. Have someone scratch the back of their neck, or run a hand through their hair, or slide their hands into their pockets, lean against a doorframe, huff, sigh, simply blink. You get what I’m saying.
Not everyone is going to smile and nod to everything everyone says. Even if they like what is being said, they might be distracted, and not respond, or smile at the wrong time because they are thinking about something else. They might look completely un phased or even annoyed, depending on their mood. Think carefully about your dialogue tags, and use smile/nod sparingly.
This one is fairly straightforward. If you have to say ‘suddenly’ in your writing, then you are warning a reader that something scary/unexpected is coming up. It prepares them, and in itself, makes said surprise less ‘sudden’. Kind of counter intuitive if you think about it, but if you really want your work to be sudden, then cut out the word suddenly.
Instead of saying:
“The world was silent, as if waiting for something.
Suddenly the sky exploded and studded our vision with red stars of fire and ash.”
it is more sudden and abrupt to just say:
“The world was silent, as if waiting for something.
The sky exploded and studded our vision with red stars of fire and ash.”
Now this abrupt burst of information might not be what you are going for, but it will definitely be more sudden and unexpected than warning your readers ahead of time that there will be something ‘sudden’ up ahead.
And there you have it, five words (or sets of related words I suppose) that you can cut out of your writing vocabulary.
Hope this post was helpful!