Oh yes…that thing we must all do if we’re writers and hope to finish anything we’re working on. Sometimes this is harder to do than you think, unless you’ve been there yourself. Any art takes a lot of brain power and imagination.
I find that reading helps if I’m at a loss for where to go next. Picking up a book in the same genre as my WIP seems to jumpstart my batteries and gets my mind going again. There are a few things I’ve discovered through my reading, not only in novels but also literary magazines and self-help books that I think will apply to any genre.
Don’t be Boring. Keep something happening. Think about reading the book you’re writing as a reader, not an author. Is it interesting? If not, how can you change it? Maybe the action doesn’t start until the second page. Can you switch it around and put that part first? If necessary, read some opening lines of novels you have in your home library.
Grab the reader by the throat. What kind of action can you devise for your protagonist that would put them in physical or emotional jeopardy? Never start any novel with a description of the weather or anything else mundane.
Give your protagonist a purpose to get involved in the conflict. With crime novels, remember a killer never kills because they are mad. There’s always another reason. It’s the same with any genre. There is usually a hidden reason behind the actions of the antagonist that will be discovered throughout the course of the story. Everyone has an agenda.
Characters shouldn’t be likeable. They should be real, like people in ordinary life. How many of us know someone that is perfect? We all have our flaws, even when we’re basically likeable. We all know liars and cheaters, scoundrels and bitches, unsure people in our lives, or we’ve crossed paths with such people in the past. Maybe these people make some bad choices because they’re only trying to fit in. Go there in your mind and use this knowledge when molding your characters. The readers will have empathy for your flawed characters because they can be damaged and likeable.
Endings should be a slap in the face and something the reader didn’t see coming. The whole novel is important, but beginnings and endings are super important. The reader should feel satisfied with the way the story ended, but at the same time surprised at how it ended.
Experience what life is about so you can use it in your writing. I’m talking about the things we all face as human beings – accomplishment and disappointment, anger and joy, heartbreak and excitement. Dig deep into your soul and bring up these feelings so they flood onto the page in the words you type.
Know what your story is about. This isn’t the elevator pitch you ramble off when someone asks you about your book. This is deeper than that. What does your story mean to you? What does it say about the world as viewed through your eyes? Something buried in our subconscious drives us to get up early and/or stay up late typing at the keyboard on our WIP. What is at the heart of our story? Is it anger or sadness? What drives the protagonist and antagonist? Are they seeking justice, revenge, or something else? If we can find it, we can classify and expand upon it and make our WIP’s killer novels one day.