- Remember the three part narrative structure: beginning, middle, end. Sounds pretty basic, but it's what readers expect. Of course, there are some examples of great novels which are told outside of the traditional order (with the end revealed at the beginning, or the story told through flashbacks) but these are the exception rather than the rule. The narrative doesn't necessarily have to be linear, but must have a compelling opening, enough in the middle to keep the reader entertained and a build-up to a great climax and denouement. It's the basic structure as set in the earliest stories told around campfires by our distant ancestors, and it's never been bettered.
- Show don't tell...this one constantly comes up in writing advice, but it's amazing how easy it is to get into the habit of telling the reader things that can easily be shown through action. Why say 'It was raining' when you can show the raindrops drumming on the windowsill? The same goes for emotion. I've been told to avoid words such as 'angry', 'depressed', etc. It's so much more effective to convey emotions through the characters' speech, actions and reactions. Characteristics come through more strongly in this way, too. Showing brings your writing to life.
- Conflict! Every story needs something that drives it, and that's generally linked to what the characters want, and the forces preventing them from achieving those goals. Before you start writing, think about what your main character wants, and what forces work against them. The conflict can be internal or external, but it has to be there.
- Motivations: this one's linked to conflict, but it's important that you give the characters a reason for pursuing their goals. People act for a reason, and it has to fit in with their character. Without motives, characters fall flat, and their behaviour makes no sense.
- Get right into the action - don't spend ages setting the scene, but hook the reader first and explain the background later. Giving the reader a reason to read on is the most important aim for Chapter One!
As you might have noticed, I've gotten into the habit of blogging twice weekly, posting one book review and one writing-related post. This is the most I can manage right now with the amount of work I have to do for university - third year is turning out to be a killer! But I'm still managing to do some writing, even though it isn't as much as I'd like to be doing.