Tell your story without masking yourself

Under the heading of “don’t deceive your reader,” I want to file this piece of advice. When you’re telling your story, tell it directly, and don’t pretend it’s someone else’s.

I see this a lot, and I don’t understand why authors do it. They launch into a tale about “someone” who has an awe-inspiring life story and then at the end say “that person was me.” This is silly enough when the author goes to lengths to avoid using a proper name. It becomes reader deception when you slap a nom de guerre on the “character” and then reveal the character to be oneself. Continue reading

Leverage the Power of Story

In fiction writing, we often say “story is king.” Remember how I define that:

Character + Plot = Story

To make your nonfiction engaging, use stories either on a small scale, like anecdotes, or on a large scale, as in a memoir.

A story may be brief, like Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus. Continue reading

Why Character is the most important fiction element

The editing checklist I presented last time is written in order of importance according to me. Other editors will disagree about what is the most important aspect of a novel. I put Character at the top of the list because the characters, especially the viewpoint characters, are how the reader experiences the story. Readers become attached to them and will root for them to achieve their goals.

But only if the characters are sympathetic.

Continue reading

Before editing, develop a plan

Many writers get to the end of a rough draft and then start revising without a clear plan. We’re taught how to write, but often we’re not taught how to edit. Professional editors know that editing requires a clear plan. Working without one can lead to months, if not years, of frustration. Don’t ask how I know that. Suffice it to say that how to develop an editing plan or checklist is one of the first things one learns when training as an editor. It’s something I wish I’d been taught as a writer. Continue reading