Charlie Laidlaw is an author and tutor at Creating Writers
Writing your book, even if it’s a short one, is going to be a marathon. That can be daunting, knowing the hours of work you’ll have to devote to it.
But just accept that it will take a long time to write. In many ways, the longer the better, because that means more thought will have gone into it.
Because you want your book to have readers who want to read it from from cover to cover. To want to see how its complexities are sorted out, how its conflicts are resolved. Whether the loving couple get to ride into the sunset and live happily ever after.
The temptation is to write quickly, just to finish your novel. But resist that route because books written in haste are rarely good. Readers are perceptive: they want to read books that have heart and soul. That takes time to write.
It’s certainly not a sprint. Think of your novel as a symphony. It has fast passages, like a car chase; or quiet passages, like a contemplative walk on a beach. You have to hint at the drama to come, and build up to it.
But after the car chase or murder, you also have to give your reader time to catch their breath and process what they’ve just learned. Too many facts, one on top of one another, particularly coupled with action scenes, are guaranteed to confuse and annoy.
You mustn’t annoy your reader by revealing too much too quickly; equally, don’t annoy them by revealing too little, or adding complexity to complexity and mystifying them.
Always bear that in mind, and simplify out irrelevant complexity. A red herring here and there is okay. Too many red herrings and your book is guaranteed to irritate.
Books work by surprise. Twists in character that reveal more about your protagonists. Unexpected events that propel the story forwards.
Those unexpected twists and events can be good things or bad things: a random act of kindness that moves the book in a direction your reader wasn’t expecting. Or someone’s death that changes the dynamics between the main characters.
But complexity has to have purpose. It must form part of your book’s structure, and should have a good reason for being there.
If your book needs further complexity, go back to your protagonist’s back story. Is there something in their past that can come back in the present? Maybe a former lover? Or a relative they wronged as a child?
But always give complexity a purpose.
If you need help getting started, Creating Writers has two creative writing courses, an introductory course and our flagship Diploma course – with a real qualification at the end of it.
They’re intended to give you the confidence and skills to understand what makes great writing.
It could be the start of a whole new journey, however many words it takes.
For more information, you can contact us here.
Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash