Last week I shared 11 tips from readers on what they love to see in novels. Here are more tips to help you write compelling fiction.
Research Matters! (More so for historicals)
- Probably the #1 thing for me is accuracy. I just read Eleanor & Park (very popular YA set in the 80s). The author almost lost me as a reader when she had a line that sounded like the father was a Korean War veteran but would have been about 12. I stayed with it and the line was clarified. He was a Vietnam vet stationed in Korea. Seriously, one line nearly ruined a book & the author’s reputation in my eyes. An extremely successful author did this by writing an entire novel based on a medical condition, and the details were WRONG! I’m not talking about a medical condition that I’m intimately familiar with, but one I know about through my own manuscript research.
- Accurate research is vital to keeping my attention. 🙂
- Never change actual history.
- Where do I start???? One thing that isn’t probably something a newbie needs to know right away but will when they start entering Genesis or any contest that requires a synopsis. They need to know that a synopsis is not a back-of-the-book blurb. All my years on Genesis and now doing critiques for conference have led me to realize a great many newbies have no idea how to write a synopsis.
- Write what God tells you to write without second guessing how the results will look. You may publish, you may not. Is it an offering to God? That’s what matters. 🙂 He’s in charge of the results. Of course, that’s for believers. LOL
- How long to really expect the process to take. (I think people might be inclined to give up if they aren’t moving as fast as they expect to.)
- Perseverance. Practice. Keep moving forward and not giving up. Being teachable. Most people who are willing to put in the effort will make it to a certain degree, but not if you’re arrogant and inflexible. No matter how talented a top athlete is they have to put in time learning and improving. Writing is no different.
- I’m an avid reader. For new writers: Characters must be believable, no matter the genre. Make me want to know them. Help me live inside the characters so I feel what the characters experience.
The plot and storyline must also be believable and maintain integrity within the story. As a reader I want to trust the author. Otherwise I won’t read them again.
While writing the first draft: Get the story down. Just write it. And know you will rewrite and edit – later. Don’t get so hung up perfecting a paragraph or scene that you become discouraged with the process. First get the basic story written.
Then, when working through it again, pay attention to the details. Do the necessary research. Readers do notice. Keep the main POV clear – don’t bounce from head to head. Pay attention to what can jerk a reader out of the story – and don’t do it.
The comment about being teachable and not arrogant or inflexible is spot on. That goes for the entire process, including sales.
And, for the record, I love reading new authors. Especially when their stories not only are free from “fatal” flaws but leave me sighing, “Wow, I can’t believe this is her/his first book.”
- Not sure this is an issue for everyone, but I definitely prefer a story that does not rely on graphic violence or sexuality.
What would you add to this list? What makes a book compelling to you?