Top 10 Writing Tips for a Killer Novel


Top 10 Writing Tips for a Killer Novel


  1. Nail the opening. Grab the reader by the throat from the first page, the first paragraph, even the first sentence. Instead of dumping a bunch of backstory into the opening chapter or setting the stage for action that takes place in the second or third chapter, open your first chapter right in the middle of action. Don’t open with your characters getting out of bed, taking a shower, getting dressed, living their normal life. Instead, open with them being chased through the back alleys of a city, being fired from their dream job, burying a body, meeting with a shadowy figure to discuss an assassination. Something dramatic, right from the first page.


  1. Write relentlessly. Writing is an active art, not a passive one. Sitting around and waiting to get inspired or taking a day or two off because you’re “not in the mood” to write can start to cripple you before long. Every writer I know has good days and bad days. Get as much done as you can on the good days and buckle down and work on the bad days—that’s the key.


  1. Read relentlessly. Read as many books as you can, both in your genre and in other genres. Pay attention to what works in them. And what doesn’t. When you read a well-written chapter or a plot twist that blindsided you, make a note of it. If you read a book that’s really well done, read it again. Focus on how everything works. If a book didn’t hold your attention, determine why that was and avoid a similar problem in your own writing.


  1. Keep raising the stakes for your protagonist. Hamper your hero or heroine at every turn—a gun malfunctions, a door is locked, a partner disappears, a cell phone battery dies, a car runs out of gas. Just as he solves one problem, give him an even worse obstacle or dilemma to overcome.


  1. Motivate your characters. How do you motivate characters? You make sure they are working toward achieving something that they must change in order to win happiness. Make your hero want something real and simple: survival, hunger, stopping a psychopath from murdering innocent people, protecting or saving a loved one.


  1. Tell a story clearly and interestingly. Pretty simple. No need to spend a few pages describing something if a few sentences will do. Keep the story moving.


  1. Write first, edit later. A matter of preference. Everyone has a favorite writing method. Mine is to write first, edit later. PDouglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Ten Writing Tipslow through a first draft without paying attention to how good or bad it is. Don’t even touch the backspace key. Write 5000 words a day. Then go back and edit.


  1. Learn from the experts. There are a million books about writing a novel, beyond these writing tips. Read as many as you can. Take notes. Some of my favorites are: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, and Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block.


  1. Distractions be gone. Pretty basic in terms of writing tips, but eliminate distractions as much as you can. Turn off your phone. Disable the Internet on your computer. The temptation to check your email or hop onto social media for a few minutes whenever you’re having difficulty writing can be tough to ignore at times, and a few minutes can easily turn into a few more, and a few more, and a few more…


  1. One last time, nail the opening. Repeating this one because I really can’t overstate how important it is to open with something exciting/uncommon/intriguing happening right from the very first sentence or paragraph. Most agents ask you to include the first 5-10 pages of your book with your query. The 300 pages after that could be incredible but if the first chapter plods along and nothing much happens, it will be almost impossible to interest an agent enough to request a full submission.

Top 10 Writing Tips for a Killer Novel

Posted in Writing Tips.

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