It's Lisa here, with some writing tips I'd like to share with you. After writing for so many years, I sometimes find it difficult to be just a reader. Instead of enjoying a story line, I often have to stop myself from analyzing the story. But while this might make reading harder, it has also helped me learn what works and what doesn't work. (At least in my opinion.)
I recently took some time to write down tips that I've learned from reading novels, from writing books, and from editor comments on my own novels. This is something I use as a checklist for my own writing.
1. Anchor your story with a strong sense of setting.
2. Show, don’t tell!
3. Ensure that a clear goal is laid out for the protagonist so the reader knows the goal right away.
4. The main goal will carry a reader through a book. Smaller goals along the way will carry us to that big finish.
5. In Christian fiction, show the spiritual place of the hero/heroine. (Don’t assume the reader knows!)
6. Danger weaved into the story must have a connection to the main plot. (Don’t throw danger at your characters just to get your reader to turn the page)
7. Both the hero and the heroine need strong stakes in the situation.
8. Watch for characters and plot threads that disappear halfway in the book.
9. Avoid one-dimensional and clichéd characters.
10. Avoid predictable plots.
11. Avoid too many sentence fragments.
12. Avoid excessive conjunctions at the beginning of sentences.
13. Watch for characters talking themselves out of romantic feelings just for the sake of prolonging the romance thread.
14. In dialogue, use contractions to make it read more naturally.
15. Get rid of clichéd movements: pinch the bridge of his nose, rubbed his temples, shoved a lock of hair, combed his fingers…
16. Watch for repetitive words.
17. Avoid “on the nose” or forced dialogue.
18. Avoid skimming the surface of a characters’ belief as well as heavy preaching.
19. Ensure you don’t describe your characters’ spiritual lives only by what they do. (their church, music, books, etc.)
20. For suspense, keep the heart-pounding action and danger going throughout the story.
21. If you use POV changes, ensure each one continues to build the tension.
22. Details are important.
23. Deal with moral conflicts without preaching, and avoid looking at the subject as only black and white.
24. End the story when the end goal is achieved after the final climax.
What tips would you add to this list? I'd love to hear from you!
Lisa Harris is an award-winning author of twenty novels and novellas. She lives with her husband and their three children in Mozambique, Africa, where they work as missionaries. When she’s not busy writing or home schooling, she loves traveling, cooking different ethnic foods, and going on game drives through the African bush.
Her novel, Blood Ransom, was recently nominated for a Christy Award. To learn more about her books, you can visit her website here.