Read everything you can.
Branch out. If you love Sci-Fi, pick up a True Crime or a Thriller. Get yourself a Fact Fiction, delve into a Fantasy. Hell, read the Newspaper! I think that if you’re a writer (or someone who wants to write) reading is like researching, it’s like studying. You can learn a lot from reading other works. You start to recognize timing and different ways to activate a plot device. It gives you more tools for the toolbox.
I’m not saying read someone’s book and write the same story. But more, look at the way that story was told. How did the characters interact? How were they introduced? How do you navigate from Point A to Point B? Yes there are books out there that will tell you how to do this- books that break it down step-by-step. But you must read and read often to really see how all these components come together.
In addition to reading, write. Write a lot. Even if it’s nothing you will ever use or attempt to publish. The Powers That Be know I have a huge steaming pile hidden away that the world will never see. But writing something bad can lead to something good. It can help you figure out interactions, not just with characters in your story but interactions with everything. How does the world you create interact with itself? Not in a metaphysical sense but in a very real sense. When the wind blows, do the trees move? When the sun rises, does it cast a shadow?
Reading a book gives you the Rules for how that contained world works. Rules that just like in real life must be followed. Things like gravity and oxygen. Things would be different if we could all just fly away. So too must your story have Rules. And as a reader you can see when those Rules are broken. You know either something is going to happen that monumentally changes the story, or perhaps it was just bad writing?
Improve your literary toolbox. Read, read read. And then write your heart out. Set yourself a daily goal. “Today I will write 500 words.” Go bigger, go smaller, just write something. I like to think I write a lot, I put down at least 1,500 words every day (okay so most days it’s closer to 3,000-I’m just a little sick in the head I guess). It’s rather a small amount when compared to the Doc Savage Author Lester Dent, born 1904, who reportedly wrote 200,000 words per month at the height of his career. In just 16 years, Lester Dent wrote 159 Doc Savage novels! Wow!
Dent is credited with what’s now known as “The Lester Dent Formula.” Okay, he’s got a whole lot more credit than that, but his Master Fiction Plot was widely used as a basic Pulp Story Model. Author Michael Moorcock, who wrote the Elric Saga, was a big fan and recommended it to new Authors. The basis of Dent’s model was geared towards a 6,000 word Pulp Story. It suggests that you split your 6,000 words into four equal parts of 1,500 words each. The first leg pits the Protagonist against some serious trouble. The second leg should double the Protagonists problems. The third leg should have the Protagonist in so much trouble that no possible escape could be in sight! All of the characters and themes should be seen in these three legs. The fourth leg obviously gives the Protagonist and company the unbelievable escape with a grand “saves the day” style ending.
But I’m straying from my point. Read. Read everything you can get your hands on and your writing will improve. On top of that, look at all the awesome adventures you get to go on just from opening that cover and jumping in!
That’s about all I have today.
As always, your comments are welcome. Feel free to add any of your thoughts about the subject. Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!