Keep the writing simple. If the reader finds it difficult to read the prose, the story will not be conveyed well. When writing intense scenes – sex or a fight, for example – remember the expression that ‘less is more’. I’ve known authors sum up these scenes in one well-crafted sentence.
Tag: writing tips
It Has To Be Scary
The submissions call for which I’m crafting a story has a stipulation: Pieces have to be scary. Easy then? No, considering I haven’t been scared by a work of fiction yet.
Though, four authors have come close, so far: Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Clive Barker and Adam Nevill.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that Bradbury with his short story, The Emissary, and King’s novel, Misery, had managed to give me gooseflesh. This was achieved, perhaps, by their ability to immerse the reader in the story and the characters, in addition to perfect timing.
Barker’s short fiction anthology, The Books of Blood, heralded a new age of Horror for me. These stories were like listening to Iommi’s (et al) War Pigs for the first time; the text glutinous with dread.
With Nevill, it was the building of, and unrelenting, tension in the first part of The Ritual that may have been achieved through the main protagonist’s increasing isolation, as well as setting and pace.
All I have to do with this technical knowledge is apply it … within a 2,000 word frame.
Don’t rush the scene you are writing. Expand it. Play with ideas; you don’t have to keep them, and they may lead to others that improve the story.
An Exercise in Editing.
I completed the final edit of a story the other week; proud of a killer story. Yesterday, I saw a call for submissions that was perfect for it in all ways, it ticked every box, stroked all the editor’s needs, even I fitted the requirement. Everything matched, except for the word count: the story was 1500 words, the editor required 1200 max. (no, really, 1200 firm, I know because I asked). Originally, the piece was 2000 words, so I had been quite ruthless already, and could not imagine losing a further twenty percent.
I continued to check other markets while some needle-monkey inside my head told me that that first one was decent, and it was the right story. Treat it as an exercise, I thought. So I did, after making a copy of the first version.
That story is now 1198 words and has been mailed to the editor. I’m chuffed, thinking: I didn’t ruin it, it’s a tighter story. I guess that truth will be proved with an acceptance.
This might have been said before, but it’s worth saying again –
If you ignore the niggling voice in your head telling you what’s wrong with the story, it will cost you later.
If it takes you two and a half hours to achieve the most from that sentence, it takes you two and a half hours.
What Is It Really About?
The werewolf is used as a trope for many societal issues. Like that particular shapeshifter, I’m discovering that my story, Hashtag Rewilding works on quite a few levels too. Although, this is not a bad thing, I feel that is important to keep a short piece of fiction simple if you want to keep the reader engaged.
In preparation for the first edit, which – rightly or wrongly – I’ve undertook with hardly any downtime, I asked myself what is this story really about. This time around the answer – a clue to which is the title – was found when I asked myself a different question: why did I start to write a serious werewolf story when two weeks before I believed it would be many years before I could write such a thing without it being a spoof.
With that in mind I have begun eliminating any thread that may obscure the true nature of this story; any sentence that does not draw the reader in to hear what is whispered between the lines. I guess I’m editing, aren’t I?
My point here is this: Ask yourself what you’re trying to say before you begin to edit.
Twisting your character’s arm is twisting your reader’s arm.
Repetition makes the improbable probable.