I'm having so much fun with these writing tips that I'm going to continue with some of my favorites.
1. Be specific. I don't know who said it, but it's bloomin' brilliant. I'm a vague person in real life, but I don't have to be in my writing. Make the reader FEEL whatever it is you're trying to convey. If it's an emotion, grip them with it. If it's a setting, show them so that they feel they're there. If it's a car, what kind of car? Your writing won't have as much impact if you aren't specific. I have to be very careful with specific words. If you can define "it" in a sentence, then use that word and not "it". I'm terrible about this.
2. Empower. This comes straight from Margie Lawson, who's empowered her teaching classes to now offering an entire academy. Lawson Writer's Academy. http://www.margielawson.com/lawson-writers-academy. Empower your writing. Empower your sentences, empower your words, empower your characters, empower their emotions and goals and characteristics. Make it bigger, stronger, more powerful, even more understated, if that's what the scene calls for. I like to look at a scene or a sentence, especially the story plot, and say, what could I do to take this to a new level? To me, this goes hand in hand with specificity.
3. Backload. This is from Margie Lawson as well. If you have a powerful word in your sentence, try shifting the words around so you end with it, because it's what the reader will absorb. For instance, I could write, Was she insane to risk this? But if I write, Was she insane to take this risk? Risk is a stronger word than this. I've ended the sentence with a powerful word that will get more reaction from the reader. Strong words like, blood, passion, fright get more mileage than it, this, about...bland words. You can't always do this, but it's great when you can. Or should I say, You can't always do this, but if you can, it's great! But whoops, I backloaded and LOST my next tip. Cadence.
4. Cadence. Another Margie tip. Yeah, I like Margie. Make your words dance on the reader's ear. For instance, she uses the line, "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" to illustrate. Which sounds so much better than, "Bears, lions, and tigers, oh my!" Here is a paragraph from Awaken the Highland Warrior that has pretty decent cadence. He didn’t move like a normal man; he flowed, like water over rocks in a stream. As if each muscle moved in perfect harmony with the others.
5. When you answer one question for the reader, introduce another? Keep them actively engaged in the story, not sure what's coming next. That's not from Margie, but I'm sure she would agree.
6. Open strong. We have to impress the agent or editor fast, or they won't keep reading. Sometimes it's hard to do. Not every story has a cute quip or can evoke a strong reaction, but if you can get one in there, you'll be ahead of the game.
7. Tighten everything; sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and if you're like me, it wouldn't hurt to tighten up those writer stomachs and butts. Sitting in a chair all the time isn't good for the body. Back to the story. I meantioned tightening last week, as well. Getting rid of the fluff is one of my biggest problems. I love those extra words. But chop, chop, baby. Save them in a file for later use if you don't want to abandon them. I had to cut 12,000 words on Awaken the Highland Warrior, and it still ended up at 110,000. I don't ever want to go through that again! Maybe that's why my stomach and butt need trimming too. More written words means more sitting.
8. Stay focused on where you're going with the story. I love big plots. I pride myself on big plots, but I have to be careful not to meander off too far into left field. I've had incredible reviews, not a rotten one yet. The worst have been a couple of mediocre ones. BUT two of the good reviews mentioned some clutter. And I recall a rejection I got from one of the Big 6 houses just before I sold. The editor said I needed to write more linear. Personally, I think it was because I love to bounce scenes around. Drop one, jump to another...
9. Know what you're good at and focus on that. Maybe it's writing dialog, or plotting, or characterization.
10. Be careful with repeats (or echoes). Oh God. The word makes me ill. I didn't see them at first, and then I saw them everywhere. Once I became aware of them, I spent weeks checking my MS with a magnifying glass, looking for repeats. I loaded my document into programs that would scan it for repeats. It took so much time that it would have been tempting to give up if I wasn't so stubborn. There has to be a balance. Editors hate repeats, but if you focus too much on it, or any rule for that matter, you might as well stop writing now. We aren't perfect.
The number one thing writers need to focus on is telling a story that's so great it would knock their socks off as a reader. And knock the agent's socks off, and the editor's. Rules are great, but they must serve the story, not the other way around.