Friday, June 26, 2015

Writing a Really Good Book

Most self-publishing gurus have this as their first rule in becoming an independent author and self-publishing your own books: Write a great book. 

That is not my first rule. My first rule in self-publishing your own work is: Start marketing. TODAY. Believe it or not, you can begin marketing before you have even written the first word on the first page. But that is not what this article is about today. I'll write about that next time.

This article is about writing a really good book.

I say really good, not great. Great books are few. A book like Shogun is great. Many books get described as being great when in actual fact they are just really good. There are various schools of thought about how to write a really good book. If you have read my article, "Writing Groups: Good or Bad?" you know I have only one rule in writing a really good book or story that I myself try to adhere to no matter what else is happening.

The first and only rule to writing a really good book is: DON'T BE BORING.

I was going to use an exclamation point with that but I think caps are sufficiently loud enough for you to hear the admonition. Yes. No matter what you are writing you should not be boring. What is boring? Well, different things are boring to different people. A romance book will bore me to tears but the woman next door to me will not be able to get enough of them. If you write suspense novels don't worry about boring the romance fans, and vice versa.

Personal preferences aside, some things are boring to everyone. One thing that I think a lot of people find boring is the overuse of adverbs and even to a lesser extent adjectives. The intricate and detailed description about the embroidery on a 17th century nobleman's coat sleeve that takes up several sentences is a bit too much.

The reader just wants to know if the nobleman is going to strangle the scullery maid or have sex with her while his conniving wife is spying on him through a peephole in a secret room that only she has discovered in the new opulent manor estate that the nobleman has recently purchased.

Here's some advice on how not to be boring: Get to the point!

Exclamation rather than caps this time. Yes. Get to it. Embroidery may be really interesting to your grandmother in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. But the housewife in Beverly Hills (and in Sheboygan for that matter) is hoping you get to the sex or killing part. (They probably want it to get to the sex part unless the killing part is going to be done by the scullery maid stabbing the nobleman.) Either way embroidery description is being skipped by your reader unless she's a seamstress in her seventies.

I wrote jokes and screenplays for about ten years prior to writing my first novel. Neither has much description. I actually did not think I could write a novel because I hated reading novels for the most part for the precise reason that I hated reading unnecessary description.

Consequently when I do rewrites on my books and stories I end up having to add some necessary description rather than take it away. I think this is the opposite of most writers. But they were not screenwriters or joke writers prior to being novelists.

Plus, most writers loved reading books as children or teenagers. I always hated reading books. I have only taken up reading books within the last two years since I have been writing them. Michael Crichton and Stephen King are probably my favorite authors but I had never even read a Stephen King book until September 2014 when I finally read 'Carrie.' Now I have read eight of them. I'm currently reading Cricton's 'Timeline.'

Of course, now that I'm a novelist, I find that I love reading. That also is the reverse of most novelists. I know. I'm weird. Deal with it. But this is probably the reason I don't use unnecessary description. And you shouldn't either.

So remember, unnecessary description is boring. How can you tell if it is unnecessary? Well, in your own work that may be hard. But in other author's work you will notice that you start to skim over it. You want people to read your books. Don't you? Then don't overly describe things.

That is the first step in putting into practice my only rule to really good writing: Don't be boring.

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