Writing Tips

December 7, 2015 hollie8985 Writing Adventures

Any author will tell you the secret to a good book is to keep the reader engaged. Which simply means, you don’t bore them. It doesn’t matter if that’s with facts, backstory, info dumping or repetitive words, too much or too little and the reader may lose interest.

A story has to be fresh and new, as well as following the unwritten rules of its genre, be what a reader expects and yet still surprising her in some way. This balance takes work, practice and a lot of time, often as I’m finding, that time is spent researching what was, or is, what can be and what is believable, even in a wholly constructed world.

For research I like to start with books from the ‘A Very Short Introduction’ series, I discovered the series while at university and found the books while short, still managed to cover enough about each subject to give a direction to follow, or not if you’re on the wrong track. I’ve mentioned before some of the books I’ve picked up to help with the physical writing of scenes, Writer’s Craft series by Rayne Hall as well as Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi’s wonderful set of Thesauruses.

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A simple everyday thesaurus can be an author’s friend, keeping words fresh and helping to reduce any repetitiveness. It can also be her enemy if not used properly for a number of reasons.

If you suddenly add a new word that has four or five syllables to your manuscript, when most of them don’t go above three, it stands out. It stops the reader in her tracks, because even if the word is correct and fits the sentence, it doesn’t necessarily fit your writing style.

There is always the problem that the new word you substitute doesn’t mean quite what you think it does, or what you want it too.

I can’t say how many books I’ve read with a hero who is/has ‘carding/carded/cards hands through his/her hair.’ Carding is a process of wool or cotton making in preparation for spinning, or at least it was, now they have machines for the process called carding machines. It is not running one thing through another, such as hands through hair, yes many people might not know, but lots will. In this age of technology, there are a lot of people who, if they find a word they don’t know, look it up. Kindle are now offering that service with ebooks as an educational aid, making it even more imperative that an author’s words are accurate.

Schools used to give leaving gifts of dictionaries and thesauruses because you shouldn’t use one without the other. A thought to remember when editing and polishing those manuscripts.

 

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