Writing Secrets: Think about every word on the page
“It’s easy to lay out a series of events that happen to one or two or more people and to take those events to some kind of conclusion. What’s more difficult, though, is telling that story with elegance, with intrigue, with impact.”
Last week, and in the next couple, I am featuring the writing advice of our mentoring participants – those who are finishing a first draft, in the middle or who have recently begun.
Hilary embarked on a manuscript earlier this year. Here’s what she has learned – about writing, and herself – in the process. The challenge, she has discovered, is “shaping the events that happen to the characters in such a way that draws in the reader and keeps them turning the page”.
Writing a good story is a skill. Having recently embarked on this long process, I’ve already learned to think about every word on the page. What does that scene need? Does it need more action or less? How do I make the characters more believable?
What do I need to do to tease the story, eking it out page by page, without rushing it through its paces? Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is that less is always more. Leak the back story in only when it serves the narrative. Restrain the character’s responses. Don’t write too much on-the-nose. In short: write in a way that always leaves the reader wanting, needing more.
Putting your work on show in a group situation is daunting. There are the highs of getting glowing feedback, and the crushing reality of a scene or even a chapter rewrite.
In the process, though, I’ve grown as a writer, through continuity errors and info dumps; through scenes that work and others that need to be scrapped completely, and through other rookie errors too numerous to mention.
But when you get through a perfectly formed scene, and your character acts in exactly the right way you want them to, it makes it all worthwhile. Above all, keep writing. That’s the best way to keep learning.
Read Richard’s latest blog: ‘Monday Motivation: Putting your finger on the very precise emotion‘
Cape Town Creative Saturday: 7 December
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