In every novel writing class, I’m always struck by how animated and enthusiastic writers are for their stories. How wonderful, I often think, to be the creator of a world, to be so embedded in that world that it’s all one can do to contain oneself. Yet problems arise when the writer must translate that mental world to a written story that readers will understand.
Writing Tip for Today: The hardest part of writing, in my little opinion, is to match the world you’ve created to the one readers see in the final manuscript. Here’s how to close the gap between imaginings and written stories:
- Scene It. Scenes, with all their concrete sensory detail, action and dialogue, tell the story best. But don’t waste your time writing just any old scene. Choose to act out or dramatize those scenes which force your characters to make decisions and act, as related to the central story. If you shy away from scene writing, instead writing a lot of interior monologues, your reader will thank you if you get out of the character’s head now and then.
- What IS the story? A story that can’t exactly say what it’s about for the character will be prone to wander through life. In real life we do a lot of wandering. But in a story, readers sign on to find out what happens about X with your character. To wander is to bore. Decide on a goal for your character: to get the guy, get the killer, or get out of Dodge and start over, but give her/him a goal.
- Revise for Story. I think rewriting for story needs to happen first, before style or copy editing. Editors call this a “substantive edit.” As we discussed with story boarding, the cleanest prose with a poor or illogical story line will flounder. Get your story into shape by studying books (I recommend Story by Robert McKee), reading and brainstorming with others. If you sift the story before you do any other editing, you may be able to get that fabulous world you created out of your head and onto the page.