Writing Rules v. Reader Rules

I loved hearing from so many of you on whether your significant other reads your stuff. Another interesting topic might be the place where many writers receive the bulk of their feedback: peer critique groups. Do writers who are involved in a group get blasted by peers for stuff a reader would never notice or care about?
Writing Tip for Today: Have you ever asked a reader if they’ve stopped reading a book because there were too many “ly” words or use of the word “was?” While I do think it’s important to learn the craft, here are some things I think readers will care more about than whether you correctly capitalized a place name:

  • Long Warm ups. Readers crave action, and the writer who takes too long to “set up” the story and get it going may lose a reader. Readers will forgive not knowing much about the character. Save the back story for later, when the reader is fully invested in the story.
  • Mushy Stakes. By the end of the first or second scene, the reader wants to at least intuitively understand what’s at stake. If the stakes aren’t high enough or important enough, the reader may snooze and then lose your story.
  • Flat Emotions. Readers crave to live vicariously through the characters. This means getting deep into the POV, allowing the reader to experience not only action and rising tension but the emotions these things brings. Emotions are the key to a reader’s heart.

Question: Looks are important in fiction. What do you think about the eyes? Should writers substitute “gaze” or some other overused “look” word, or is it OK to write a line such as, “She dropped her eyes?” I’d love to hear from you!

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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