Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Writing fiction - art or business?

This from Buzzword Books Commissioning Editor, Dan Mills:

Start strong

How you begin is all important. Your title is your shop-front pitch. And your first paragraph is what is in the window. So you'll begin with dialogue or action and preferably both, constructed in the most interesting way you can conceive. Leave your deadly flashbacks, narrative, back story for much later. In fact, leave these things out if you can. Do it on the top story. Drama. Progression. Directness. Simplicity. Let it march. As for endings. They are the pinion of you whole story. Know exactly where you are going so that everything leads to that point.


Character relevance, not flatulence

And, of course, your characters will be what? Stereotypes? Caricatures. (two-dimensional). Or fully rounded complex studies (three-dimensional). Will you be Dickens or Flaubert? Both methods have their place, depending on the story. Of course, you will avoid long descriptions of your characters that bog down the action.
  You need to be an impressionist - to know what to highlight and what to leave out. You will learn this by observing people. Constantly watching, looking. There are even techniques that can help here. Spend an hour looking at nothing but people's shoes. You'll find it's a revelation. Once you've decided by the shoes what kind of person is wearing them, look up to see if you are right. The same can be done with hairstyles, jewellery and watches, colours of jackets and so on.


Writing is rewriting. And sentences should have balance, weight. Don't dribble a sentence to its conclusion. End it well. Perhaps on an emphatic word. Or a short one at least. Listen to the lilt of the syllables. A good ear is the writer's best friend. And, for God's sake, speak your dialogue aloud. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes. And break it up. Don't be dreary. You're not writing a menu. Light and shade. Remember always that you're writing prose.
  Metrical phrasing is death. You're not Milton. It's not blank verse. If you want to be a poet, be honest about it. 'Kill your darlings,' is very good advice for the commercial fiction trade. If you try to slip in sonorous sentences, you'll simply confuse and annoy your audience. It may be appreciated at your writer's club. But showing off is bad business in the cash-and-carry fiction market.
  And once it's written, put your second hat on. Edit, edit, edit. Chop out everything you can. Until it's lean, spare, effective.
  Well, that's enough for one article. Get it? Got it? Good.