Good morning Rebels, and welcome back to my life.
It’s Writer Wednesday, the day we discuss tips and tricks for writing gooder. Have I mentioned that I write books? Like, for money?
It’s very popular to say you have a useful writing “trick” to share, but I’m going to tell you a hard truth today. There are almost no writing “tricks.” ALMOST.
Having a thesaurus is handy, but that’s not a trick.
Writing a LOT will make you better, but that’s not a trick. That’s work. And you need to do a LOT of it.
Reading also makes you better, but again—not a trick. It’s work, and it takes time—years, in fact, of reading, for very slight improvement.
In fact there’s only one writing trick I’ve ever learned. One thing that’s always on my mind when I’m writing—and it’s the only thing that matters, really.
See, when you’re writing, you are communicating SOMETHING. On a macro level or a micro level, you’re communicating SOMETHING.
Your book has a big, broad communication. Each chapter has its own smaller communication than that, every scene has a smaller communication than THAT, down to paragraphs, sentences and even individual words.
Every single press of a key on your keyboard is part of a COMMUNICATION. Writing, heck, art itself, is a COMMUNICATION.
As a writer, it is YOUR job to know what you’re trying to say. YOU must know the message you intend to deliver to your audience.
And you must be able to put yourself in the head of your audience and read it from their viewpoint, honestly and completely. And you must be able to evaluate whether you are actually saying what you intend to say.
This requires incredible self-awareness, and self-awareness can be one of the greatest challenges a writer can face. It require intelligence and honesty and unbelievable humility.
And most people take the humility too far and insult themselves and doubt their work, and that’s not good but it’s better than the people who try to pass of shlock as actual writing.
Sit there and stare at your words until you can honestly answer this question:
Will a random reader, out there in a bookstore or online, understand what you are trying to communicate?
And if the answer is no, that is when you use this trick:
ADD things that contribute to your communication. And then REMOVE things that detract from your communication.
This sounds too simple to be useful, but I promise you it is not. It is one of those things that you assume everybody knows, while at the same time you do not use it in your writing as much as you should.
And it applies on every level of your writing, from the entire book series down to the choice of a single word.
This is why, when some people edit their books, they cut words out. And other people edit their books and add words in. And neither one of them is wrong.
What is your book intending to communicate? Look at every single character in your book. Does every single one of them contribute to that communication? If not, cut them out of your story.
What is each chapter intending to communicate, to contribute to the book’s overall communication? Look at every single scene in that chapter and make sure it’s achieving that message. If you haven’t achieved the message, maybe you have to add a new scene.
This applies to every single part of the editing process, right down to copy editing. Does a typo contribute to your communication? Get it out of there.
Now I can hear some of you objecting, saying that this all sounds like it’s for plot-based books. Sometimes you have to let a scene breathe.
Sometimes the point is to not say anything at all, but let the scene ride in relative ease for a moment and let the reader think about what they’ve read so far.
And in that case I want to reach through my camera and grab your face because THAT ITSELF IS A COMMUNICATION and a quiet, contemplative scene lends itself incredibly well to that narrative.
I am not saying that one type of writing or one type of book is better than any other; what I AM saying is that your book is your book and it is trying to say something, or it had better be, and you need to make sure that every part of that book says that something.
If you ever feel like you don’t know what to do when developing your story, or you’re already done with your book but you feel like you’re over-editing it, or you kind of maybe aren’t sure if it IS done or not and it’s hard to tell, this is all you have to do.
Examine what your book, your chapters, your scenes, and each page is supposed to communicate, and make sure you’re achieving that message.
Take out all the things that don’t contribute to it, and add in more things that do contribute to it.
It sounds too simple to believe, but I promise you, this is all a writer, an editor or a publisher ever does.
I hope you find this principle useful as you begin to use it in your writing, Rebels. As always, thank you for watching, and I will see you tomorrow. Maybe. Byyye.