5 Things No One Tells Writers (But Totally Should)

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If you’re taking writing seriously, then you probably already are familiar with some of the most common truths of the trade, such as the fact lots of great manuscripts end up in the slush pile. But there are tons of other realities that people should clue you in about (but probably haven’t).

1. Editors, agents, and publishers are just people. 

Because editors, agents, and publishers have a certain amount of expertise, and because they serve as gatekeepers for getting work to readers, writers often put them on a pedestal. But they’re prone to the same excitements, limits, and needs as everybody else, and like everybody else, they’ve probably downed a few pints of Ben & Jerry’s during peak moments of stress.

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You’ll find some writing industry pros who are fantastic and some who are jerks. And at the end of the day, if you don’t send that email or call, they’re out of a job. So see them for the humans they are. Give them empathy and don’t be afraid to reach out or ask questions.

2. Multiple projects protect your sanity.

I’ve had rare instances where editors emailed me back the same day, and even rarer instances where it was within the hour. The typical timeframe for a response, however, is 2 to 4 months. During that time, you have two choices:

  • Ruminate every waking hour about what the agent, editor, or publisher is doing and what they will say because you have nothing to distract you, OR
  • Be productive on something else so your anxiety doesn’t turn you into a shriveled raisin of despair.

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Trust me when I say that the second option has more advantages. Not only do other articles, stories, novels, etc. help the time pass faster, but they also offer consistent practice and more opportunities to be published/make a sale. So get into a rhythm, and develop your own system for tracking everything you’re doing.

3. You’ll spend a ridiculous amount of time Googling.

Even if you’re the best writer on the face of the planet, facts you need might not already be in your brain. Whether you need to figure out the accurate length of a typical medieval sword or you have to grab the latest disease statistic, Google is your best friend. And just like your local library (which I still highly recommend)…

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The problem here, of course, is that it’s so easy to get pulled down the rabbit hole into information you don’t need. It can be hard just to discern what’s going to be useful and what won’t be. So you need to set limits for yourself and get as specific as you can with the questions you are asking. Learn a little about how SEO works so your results actually are relevant. Lastly, make sure that you take the time to create whatever bookmark folders you’ll need, because nothing is worse than trying to use your Internet history to find something you didn’t digitally file.

4. Your pace is your own.

Join any writing group or community online or just read about writing and you’ll likely get the impression that you have to write at the speed of light (or maybe faster). Even publishing “schools”–and there are some good legitimate ones–sell packages based on the idea of getting more books out quickly.

But creativity is not aware of the clock. The brain links pieces at a schedule we can’t put on the agenda. Not only that, sometimes writing isn’t just going through finding words or researching. It’s dealing with truly personal, deep trauma or other emotions that you can’t rush. So if it takes you just a few months to crank out a novel, more power to you. But if you end up as the snail watching a bunch of squirrels spastically scurrying to the finish line, don’t sweat it.

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All that matters is that you don’t quit, and that you keep the focus on creating something with real quality embedded in it.

5. You’ll need to draw the line.

Any piece you write can become a “baby” to you. And in the quest to treat that baby right, it’s natural to go to it multiple times, revise, and try to make it even better. But there comes a point where all you’re doing is changing, not improving. For me personally, I know I’ve hit that point when the revisions are smaller and more grammar-focused, and I’m not really adding or taking anything away that would have a strong influence on the plot. I also know I’ve reached that point when I feel more at ease about the text and have a sense that I’d be totally OK with others seeing the last draft. Remember that leaving one project means that you can enjoy starting another, draw the line, and don’t keep looking back.

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In my view, most people who go into writing don’t go into it truly understanding how to be great at it. It’s a constant learning process, even for people who “naturally” can put words on the page. But because it requires such an enormous commitment, you should have a sense of what you might experience. The points above provide a small glimpse into that. More truths that are true for you will be clearer over time, but whenever you’re in doubt, talk to people in the trenches. They likely will be happy, because of the writer’s inclination, to tell their story for your benefit.

What the Feud Between Stephen King and J.K. Rowling Teaches Us as Writers

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Two weeks ago, J.K. Rowling made waves (again) for her stance on transgender people. This time, she was responding to a tweet by Stephen King, who expressed his belief that “trans women are women”. The Harry Potter author blocked King on Twitter for the post.

First of all, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Rowling is famous and confident enough in her own right to block someone like King. That. Takes. Balls. AND I LOVE IT.

But beyond that, the authors’ Twitter feud reveals that there’s a delicate balance between supporting other writers, taking an authentic stance, and maintaining/growing a following.

When King responded to Rowling, he told The Daily Beast 

“Here’s the thing: She is welcome to her opinion. That’s the way that the world works. If she thinks that trans women are dangerous, or that trans women are somehow not women, or whatever problem she has with it—the idea that someone ‘masquerading’ as a woman is going to assault a ‘real’ woman in the toilet—if she believes all those things, she has a right to her opinion.

 

And then someone tweeted at me, ‘Do you think trans women are women?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ And that’s what she got angry about—my opinion,” said King. “It’s like the old saying, ‘I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ So, nobody has ‘canceled’ J.K. Rowling. She’s doing fine. I just felt that her belief was, in my opinion, wrong. We have differing opinions, but that’s life.”

Whenever, like Rowling, you make a controversial statement you really believe in, there’s some risk that you could lose followers. The same is true with your online behavior. Some people might have seen just blocking King as offensive. And by defending trans women, King likely ruffled some feathers, too.

But there’s no arguing that, whatever your stance might be on the transgender issue, Rowling isn’t hiding anything. Her thoughts are very clear, and part of being responsible as an author–or as any other professional–is to show the truth of who you are. She’s doing that. And as a result, there’s an increased chance that the people she maintains as followers are going to be loyal for the long haul and buy whatever she writes. In the same way, King was clear what his own stance was.

The difference, in my opinion, is that King comes off as more of a team player. Rather than authoritatively dismiss the person who has a different view, he acknowledges her, even as he clarifies his own position. That acknowledgment matters, because it demonstrates respect for her, both as an artist and human being. Readers aren’t blind to the way you treat others in your field, and it has sway on their opinion of you and your work.

Part of the beauty of writing is that people can express so many things. And as King points out, you do not have to agree with all of what is on the page. But the bigger takeaway from the Rowling/King feud is that we all have an obligation to defend each other’s right to authenticity. If we lose that authenticity, getting readers behind us is going to be an uphill battle, if not impossible.

So as you try to market yourself, speak your heart. That’s the first half of the writer’s duty. But make sure that others can be heard, too. That’s the second half. After all, writing is a hard enough job without us tearing each other down.

 

How to Write an Amazing Concluding Paragraph Using SAC

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In my previous post, I covered how to nail introductory paragraphs, particularly for articles. Today, let’s cover how to wrap it all up with a fantastic conclusion.

The SAC format

Most conclusions can follow the Summary, Action, and Clincher (SAC) format. It works well for essays, articles, and blogs, for instance.

The summary reviews your key assertion or thesis and ties all your main points together.

The action encourages your reader to do something based on the thesis/article points. It can be a mental action (e.g., “Consider…”), but task-oriented statements (e.g., “Clean up your computer files”) arguably are more powerful. It really just depends on the nature of the thesis.

The clincher is an attention-getter or final thought that makes it clear to the reader that you’re all done.

Here’s a quick example:

All great articles need a powerful conclusion. The best way to do that is to use SAC formatting, which includes a summary, action, and clincher.  (summary) Prepare your thesis and body carefully when you write so that pulling your thesis and main points together with this template is easy. (action) After all, the more organized your writing is, the more enjoyable it likely will be for your reader, and that’s the ultimate author’s goal. (clincher)

 

Instead of rehashing, SAC ties it all together and directs people forward with a clear why

The main consideration when you use SAC is that you don’t want to sound like you’re just repeating yourself. Don’t just pull your thesis and main point sentences down to the bottom, and don’t add more details, because by the time you reach your conclusion, you already should have laid those out in the body.

Instead, find a way to rephrase those concepts in an interesting way that pulls everything together. The reader should get the sense, based on how you do this, that you’re wrapping up and are about to give them that clincher.

So think about that final sentence. Ask yourself what impression you want the reader to take away and how you can lead into that. The more you can think about a broad perspective or big picture, the simpler this job will be.

How to Write a Solid Article Introduction Using AMAP

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Web and magazine articles are some of the most consumed content in the modern age. But what happens if your intro paragraph stinks? Because of the sheer quantity of pieces out there, if your introduction is subpar, readers will ditch you fast. To rise above the noise, for most articles, you need to hook people right away with attention-getter, motivator, assertion, and preview sentences (AMAP).

The four parts of the intro, defined

Your attention-getter is your introduction’s hook. It can take a lot of forms. Stats, sayings/quotes, facts, or descriptions all work, so think about your audience and how they tend to think or work.

Your motivator explains the attention-getter or gives the reader a reason to listen. It can identify the source of a quote to offer authority, for example, or it can provide a curiosity gap. The best motivators show direct relevance between the hook and the reader’s needs, wants, or interests.

The assertion is your thesis. This is where you make the claim or overall point for the article.

The preview summarizes what you’re going to cover in the article to support the thesis. The trick is to do this in a way that leaves some room for a little header variety. Otherwise, you just sound like you’re repeating yourself.

The example right in front of you

If you go back and look at the introduction for this post, it follows the AMAP strategy. I start with a fact, build a little curiosity with a question, assert that readers will leave without a good intro, and then outline AMAP.

Storytelling and other uses

Unless you’ve been under a rock, then you know that the best writing emphasizes great storytelling. People want to connect and empathize as they read. That’s what pulls them in. Although AMAP is meant more for straightforward pieces, such as how-tos or explainers, you still can use it with great artistry. Here’s a sample I whipped up:

When the dry season came, the water ran out. I tried not to show fear, but my mind could not help think about whether the drought would devour us. Unless we walked to the camp more than 100 miles away, we would not make it. What water was left in the river was too dirty, there was no way to grow food for our bellies, and the sky was an endless blaze of light.

So don’t think for a minute that you can’t apply this format to a great short story or even a novel. You can. With a little tweaking, it even can get you started on a query or promotional blurb/excerpt (e.g., When the dry season came to Yanta’s village…can they overcome the dirty river, food shortage, and blazing sky to reach the camp 100 miles away?). Because remember, you’re just catching the reader’s attention, making your point, and summarizing.

When to leave AMAP behind

AMAP doesn’t apply as well to more journalistic/news pieces, which jump right into the events/facts. It also isn’t the best choice if you’re directly transcribing an interview–that just needs a single sentence saying what the transcription covers, who was involved, and when the discussion happened.

Another consideration is editorial preference/style. Some publications or sites always want their pieces to follow a specific feel or format. They might say, for example, to use quotes only in the main body of the article, or they might favor a format where there are only one or two sentences to begin. Always review pieces that already are up or in print to decide if AMAP will work.

Variety is valuable, but for a quick start, AMAP has incredible strength

AMAP is a specific method for approaching introductory paragraphs. It’s ideal for articles, but it’s applicable to other purposes, too. Even though I don’t recommend using it every single time because of the value of variety, it’s a powerful technique to have in your writing arsenal. Pull it out when you need to get started on pieces quickly and a little templating makes sense to get yourself moving.

The Danger of Scripts in Writing and Related Content

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Lately, I’ve been listening to a ton of podcasts. Although they cover a host of different topics, they almost all start the same way if there’s a guest:

“Thanks for being on the show.”

“Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.”

Now, if I hadn’t listened to so many episodes, perhaps I might not have noticed this. And I understand that this way of starting a show is culturally accepted as normal. But as it is, it strikes me now as almost a nervous tick. It’s become like Popeye eating spinach, and because of that, I can’t stand it.

What overused podcast introductions have to do with your writing

Writers often repurpose their content. They can turn an article concept into a podcast episode, for example, and good podcasters usually have a basic outline for an episode instead of just winging it.

But it got me thinking about the potential for writers to get stuck in scripts regardless of medium. Maybe you don’t start your stories all with “Once upon a time…”, for example. But maybe you keep using certain phrases you constantly see in your genre. Or maybe you template your articles so much that, even though the content technically changes, readers see your structure to such an extent that they’re distracted or feel like you’re not trying hard enough.

The point is, there’s a balance between the norms and having your own voice.

 

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If you’re going to do a podcast, for example, then you still need to introduce your guest. But you can say something  like “I’m really grateful you’re with us today because you…” or “First, let me just express my appreciation for taking the time to be with us…” It doesn’t have to be so obnoxiously cookie-cutter.

Three ways to break free from scripts for good

How do you get out of the script and stay spontaneous and authentic? For me, it starts with thinking in terms of purpose. What do you need to achieve? What has to happen? There are lots of different paths you can take to reach an objective, but what’s the goal in the first place? Think about that, rather than the specific words you’ll write or say.

Secondly, look back at what you’ve already done. If you’re going after the same goal, challenge yourself not to copy the path you took the last time. You can’t break a habit you’re not aware of, after all.

Third, read as much as you can all over the map. The more writers and genres you expose yourself to, the more ways you’ll see to approach what you have to accomplish.

So check your writing. There’s something to be said for planning to a certain level for efficiency’s sake. But if you feel like you’re repeating yourself or taking an approach just because you “need” to for acceptance, step back. There’s always a new, fresh way. You just have to be brave enough to use it.

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Writing Instantly

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If you want to improve your writing, then the best way to do it–by far–is to just write, and to do it a lot. There’s no magic quick fix for honing your own style and becoming comfortable with the entire process. But there are some habits and strategies that can make a dramatic improvement in just minutes.

1. Say the words.

Yes, you have to go back and clean things up. But part of what makes writing work is that it feels conversational and relatable. Reading your writing aloud or verbalizing as a part of outlining process helps you find your flow. If you’re tripping all over yourself in a spot, then you probably can say it in a simpler way or find alternatives that fit the rhythm of the writing better.

2. Download a tool.

My favorite here is Grammarly, but there are increasingly sophisticated options. Some even are starting to utilize AI to generate content and predictive analysis to make suggestions. The key here is to remember that the software is not the boss. It is simply a second pair of eyes, your Editor-in-a-Pinch. YOU still have to be smarter than the technology and think about how the suggestions/changes will influence the reader’s experience. But they can help you notice areas that need clarity or correction very quickly. They also can get you to think more out of the box and feel OK about chucking what doesn’t work.

3. Psych yourself up.

As a writer, your job isn’t just to tell the story (e.g., Fact A, Fact B, Fact C). That’s boring as hades. What makes it engaging is empathy. Readers have to feel something for the work to be memorable and have an influence on their thinking or behavior.

Conveying feelings in your writing happens more naturally if you’re feeling those emotions as you work. In this way, it’s every bit of performance art as acting or singing. It can be exhausting if you truly embrace and put everything into it. To get yourself in the right mindset for a scene, do anything that gets you in the mood you need to convey. Listening to music tracks is an easily accessible option I use all the time. But you also can go for a walk, go somewhere new, drink your favorite drink, play a video game or even sort your stuff. The only rules are that whatever you do has to be 1) easy to stop and pivot from 2) safe for you and others.

4. Pay attention to your body and environment.

I’m not talking so much about general self-care, although things like enough sleep and choosing healthy foods definitely influence your brainpower. I’m talking about your natural rhythm during the day. For example, most of us slump during the afternoon, and I find that I write more words per hour in the morning before everyone is up and it’s quiet. Try to figure out when you do your best writing and then make sure that you’re scheduling in those windows. Take care of the more routine jobs for your writing that you can do pretty automatically, such as backing up your files, when you know you’re not going to be at your creative best.

5. Conduct a poll.

Whether you need to know which ending scenario people like better or just want to see which phrasing people prefer, a poll is a super fast and efficient way to get feedback. Social media platforms make it easy to connect with others for this purpose. When all is said and done, you’ll be left with a draft that’s easier to understand and gets a better response from your target audience. It also can help make you more aware of your shortcomings or biases so that they don’t find their way into your work in the future.

Most great writers admit that improving at the craft is something that never stops. Like them, you should seek to get better and learn more about writing over your entire career. But sometimes simple changes can make a huge, immediate difference in the quality or quantity of your work (or both). Give these strategies a try, and then let me know in the comments if they’ve helped you along.

 

How Challenging Yourself With Short Writing Deadlines Can Boost Your Judgment and Confidence

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If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, then you already know that I’m a huge advocate of not forcing writing if you’re just not feeling it. Forced writing shows its seams and almost always loses its luster.

But let’s assume that you’re having a great day. The words are flowing faster than your coffee. In this case, it often can be worth it to challenge yourself in terms of pace/deadline. The challenge doesn’t have to be outrageous–a mild shift is totally fine. If you normally take three hours to write a chapter, for instance, just aim for 2 hours and 50 minutes. Or if you normally do 500 words an hour, aim for 525. But you can test yourself harder, too, such as doing 3 articles instead of 2. You just have to be realistic, because if the challenge is truly impossible, then you’ll only end up missing the mark and feeling defeated.

So why do this?

The point with this strategy isn’t to add stress. Remember, it’s something to use when the writing is working for you. The point is to encourage yourself to trim away the fat. When the deadline is shorter or the pace is a little faster, you have to trust your gut. You can’t get caught in the weeds when looking for sources. You have to make good decisions on the fly about what’s relevant or necessary. You start to grasp that you don’t need everything. It’s training your judgment.

I’ve found that, when you do all of these things, something miraculous happens. Your true voice starts talking. Even though you might be conscious of all your technique or audience or any number of things, your self-censorship deflates, because you just don’t have time to worry so much. You have to just do. It’s all about just finishing. And over time, you’ll start to feel more comfortable not waiting for yourself. It’s a major confidence booster.

None of this means that the draft you produce is going to be perfect. You still have to go back and polish. But if you combine this strategy with others, such as using a template, then you can produce solid content fast and reliably and increase the odds that the end result is closer to who you actually are. And in my view, the value for this can’t fit on a price tag.

Rethinking the Traditional Protagonist and Antagonist

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In traditional writing, there’s almost always a clear protagonist and antagonist. The protagonist is the character (or idea) that represents everything good and right. The antagonist is the character (or idea) that represents everything bad and wrong. The story is, at the core, not about the characters at all, but whether good will triumph over evil. We anticipate that good will win out, but we still pay attention because we want to see the novel path that the author chooses to get good to the finish line.

In an article for Electric Literature, Elyse Martin points out that there’s been a surge toward trying to blur the lines with characters, particularly when it comes to female villains. The concept, Martin argues, is that writers and producers have been relying on the idea of female virtue to “rehabilitate” female villains–that is, they’re trying to give the villains a “cause” or reason for being bad, under the pretext that the villains really are inherently good, “were it not for x”. And in Martin’s view, that’s a mistake. We should just allow the villains to be bad, just because they’re bad.

Martin’s article stands as evidence of how people are playing with the protagonist/antagonist idea and how people are responding to it. I take Martin’s point in that, sometimes, there really is no underlying reason for being bad. Sometimes, a person has no deep trauma or backstory–they just really enjoy being an arsehole. That’s it. And the predictability of them being a jerk–and the protagonist later squashing them like a bug–is oddly comforting and enjoyable.

But I’m not so sure that, as writers, we have to draw a strict line all the time. Part of what makes life so challenging–and interesting–is that people aren’t 100 percent consistent. Great people can make horrid mistakes, like the loving family man choosing to cover for his boss’ lies. People who always have looked out for #1 can decide to do the right thing, like a death row inmate who donates his organs and gives others a second chance at life. Emotions can disrupt the usual logic, and reason can become clear. A million caveats can change decisions. A great example is in Star Wars, when Darth Vader–a main antagonist–becomes a hero by saving his son, Luke Skywalker, from another antagonist, the Emperor.

 

In my view, blurry boundaries between antagonists and protagonists can make a book better. We can be on the edge of our seats because we aren’t sure which side they’re on, what they’re going to do, or who to really root for. This lack of clean lines creates intense anticipation and curiosity.

The key, I think, is knowing your audience and setting. If you’re writing for little kids who don’t have a ton of life experience and who can’t think as abstractly, for example, then black and white roles can be more favorable. But if you’re writing for adults, then they’re going to be able to understand far more nuances that color the characters in different ways. And in the same way, if you’re going for a more modern book with a realistic setting, then having a person who does only bad or good all the time can seem too fake.

So think about what your reader is going to need, as well as whether positioning your characters as antagonists or protagonists is going to make sense for the circumstances and plot line. If black and white works in one book and not another, then that’s OK. Let the books be what they must, and just have fun.

 

 

Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Use Chapter Titles in Your Books

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Every fiction book has a title. That’s a given. But chapters? That’s messier.

The case against chapter titles…

Most fiction books I’ve read don’t use chapter titles. They use numbers. More specifically, writers generally put those numbers on the page as digits (e.g., 29), rather than writing out the words (e.g., twenty-nine). But every writer is a little individual about it.

Some readers like that chapter titles can give a sneak peek at what’s ahead in the next section of the book. But personally, I find that chapter titles usually give away too much, which ruins my anticipation. If an author only uses the chapter number, then I have clear start-stop points in the book, but the author hasn’t given anything away, and I still have a better sense of mystery and excitement.

From a technical perspective, chapters are meant only to break your book into smaller sections. And it can become hard to know where to draw the line with section labels. Paragraphs or pages, for example, are small sections, too, but you don’t title those. You just assume the reader will flow from one to the next and use the line break / indenting to understand your organization. So in this sense, I see chapter numbers as much simpler and less invasive.

…and the case in favor

But chapter titles have their benefits. They force you, as a writer, to have a clear sense of what the content in that section does or is about. If you outline before you write, then you can stay better focused so you don’t get into the weeds too much. You know exactly what purpose the text has for the reader. And if you place titles after drafting, then it still can help you see what to put in or cut. There’s also a fantastic creative challenge that can improve your writing overall. Instead of one title to come up with, you could have dozens. Many readers appreciate all this extra flavor and effort.

Chapter titles also can create a sense of unity through a book. Some readers need to see or how the chapters are related, because those associations help them make better sense of the book as a whole. And if you use a chapter title that includes something the reader is familiar with or that provides a good curiosity gap, then you can create some empathy to connect better and create intrigue without giving too much away. It’s possible to set the mood right away so that your reader more easily can settle in, imagine the world or scene, and feel invested.

In the end, the reader is most important

Ultimately, chapter titles are always forward-oriented. So if you’re going to use them, they need to give clear clues about the journey the reader is going to take, and they need to do it in a way that’s not distracting. If you don’t want to use them, though, then you don’t have to. There are all kinds of other writing strategies and techniques you can use to create anticipation (e.g., a classic cliffhanger chapter ending), help one section flow to the next, or offer clues. But in either case, think about your reader, both in terms of what they expect–some genres use chapter titles more often than others, for example–and what they personally are going to need. Create a truly immersive experience, and make conscious decisions at every step about how to present your story in a positive way that they’ll respond to.

Do Modern Writers Lean Too Much on Blunt Shock Value?

Catching your readers off guard once in a while isn’t a bad thing. It can make your story seem more novel (pun intended) so that people are motivated to go all the way to the last page. But then I stumbled across this Tweet:

The tweet got me thinking about how writers are approaching fiction writing in general. Like Chris, I’ve been getting the impression that there’s a lot of emphasis on the “traits” or technical elements that go into a draft, like making characters more compelling. But you can have all of those elements and still have a book be less than incredible if your actual writing is subpar.

But what makes it stand out?

For me, great writing is poetic, not in the sense of being flowery or verbose, but in the sense of having incredibly beautiful imagery, rhythm and metaphor that stirs deep feelings of empathy. You absolutely can have your own style here. But readers get the sense from your connotations and phrasing and analogies, from hints and implications between the lines, that the character has some real experience with life. It’s truthful and relatable in an incredibly deep way.

From my perspective, much of modern writing lacks this poetry. It is incredibly sharp and blunt, designed to drop the jaw and not waste time. Perhaps that is because there has been so much of an emphasis on pacing and driving the plot. Perhaps that makes us afraid of what will happen if readers are allowed a moment to think beyond the pages into the psychological or other realities those pages contain. Or perhaps it is the reader who is already so overwhelmed that all they want is an “easy” beach read, to be entertained instead of forced to keep thinking and feeling. Or perhaps we are all so conditioned to the dramatic, to explosions and fire defining “action”, to technology forcing us to want immediate gratification and response, that we think bluntness is the only way to communicate.

This bluntness can be problematic in any genre, but I think it’s especially visible in horror/thriller. The stories aren’t just more gruesome. They also quickly throw out events that are so unexpected that I cannot help but feel like seams are showing, like it was clearly the writer’s intent to shock. And because I see the intent, I am not shocked. I’m disappointed and distracted from the story.

The solution isn’t easy. It’s to focus on yourself. It’s to be so comfortable with who you are that you don’t censure, that you no longer worry about what anyone else is going to think as you pull from everything you know and have been through. You must listen to your own instinct and capture it in a way that makes purpose clear. You can do this listening even if you choose to change scenes or character traits, and it’s not about what you say, but how. Do it well, and your voice will never be lost, no matter how many revisions you go through.