I have been posting articles about writing novels for a long time. We add weekly blogs about writing techniques and writing routines, but some things never change. There are always certain ways to make your novel more memorable.
Here are 17 tips for writers who want to do just that:
- Your protagonist drives the story. Build your plot around the decisions you want your protagonist to make.
- Structure your book as a roller-coaster ride. It should be a physical journey that forces you to vicariously experience a series of emotions. Pace it. Give us moments of respite and then throw us back into the action.
- Keep it simple. Tell the story. Make sure you have a clear beginning, middle and ending.
- Write from your heart. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Readers will sense if you’re not being genuine. You do not have to know what you are writing about. As Nikki Giovanni says, writers don’t write from experience. They write from empathy.
- Start your novel at the end of the backstory you’ve created. Begin with a breath-taking inciting moment. Something should happen that leads to a revelation of a shocking fact, a surprising insight, or a unique perspective. The protagonist’s status quo must change and he or she needs to act or react. Move your story forward. Don’t look back.
- Include only the most important parts of the story. Your novel is like a highlights package of an episode in a person’s life. Cut out the boring bits. Move us from one exciting scene to another. Don’t constantly review your characters’ actions and feelings because nobody cares.
- Always remember the end. Where are you taking your characters? You should keep them on the path to that finale. If you don’t, you risk losing your readers along the way.
- Learn how to describe effectively. Use body language. Use simple descriptions with lots of sensory details. Describing through the senses ensures that you show and don’t tell.
- Remove excess slang and buzzwords from your manuscript. Words that seem so ‘with it’ now, will age your book in one year’s time.
- Limit gimmicky viewpoint techniques. Stick to three viewpoints for an 80 000-word novel. It is also a good idea to use a viewpoint that works in the genre and a viewpoint that you are comfortable writing.
- Practise techniques to keep your readers on the edge of their seats. How do you keep the suspense going? Make them want to turn the page. You want their full attention.
- Check your techniques well in advance. Have you learnt how to write? Have you completed at least one year of daily writing practice? Have you practised writing dialogue so that characters sound different?
- Never let your protagonist remain a victim for long in your novel. A powerless protagonist is not a good idea. Most readers feel powerless enough in real life. They want to read about characters who make a difference. Characters who could be them, if they decided to act.
- Do not add unimportant bits and pieces to the plot just to fill in gaps. Rather decide if you need to revise your plot. Is it strong enough? Are your characters motivated enough? Are your characters strong enough?
- Give your protagonist and your antagonist story goals. These story goals should be in conflict with each other. Tell a story where your readers can empathise with both your hero and your villain. Make both of them memorable and interesting.
- Don’t drag out the ending. Once the question that started the story has been answered, let your characters and your readers get on with their lives.
- Polish the end product. No matter what, revise and rewrite your manuscript at least three times.
I hope these tips help – whether you’re starting a novel, stuck in the middle, or finishing one. I wish you hours of Happy Writing.
© Amanda Patterson
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