Guide to Successful Writing
There is no way this can ever be definitive. Let's get that one squared away right away. No-one can "make you a good author" in the same way that no-one can make me one. I just happen to write and people tell me it's acceptable. And then they ask me how to do it.
I've thought about 'how to do it' and I have no real idea. But the basic rules are very simple.
Let's start with a list of "No, don't ever do that's"
Please, if you want someone like me to enjoy your story, don't:
- Introduce any character all in a rush, and especially not in the first paragraph. "I'm Freddie, I'm 6'3", weigh 150lbs and am gay" turns me right off.
- Never talk about sizes of genitals, especially improbable sizes. "He took out his 10 inch penis" is a big turnoff. If it was large there has to be a better way of describing it!
- Use words like 'fuck' where there is a better word, especially when writing erotica. The word 'fuck' and similar, brutal words, make a story judder for the reader. Of course there are times to use brutal words, so use them then, but only then.
- Volumes of ejaculate are also a huge turnoff. And most of them are way to big. "I must have cum a whole half pint!" Well, no, you didn't. You had the same teaspoonful that we all get. And so reality goes away and we stop reading your otherwise excellent story.
- Confuse " and ' where you are speaking and thinking. Now this is a preference, but my house style is to use " for speech and ' for thinking or quotes. Getting this wrong confuses the heck out of your reader.
- Use words you don't normally use in speech.
- Use words spelt oddly to reflect a dialect. Tell us what the dialect is and then write normally. You can still use 'gonna' instead of 'going to' if the speech flows better, but never attempt (say) an Irish brogue with weird spellings.
- Search for variants on 'he said', just say 'he said'
- Use apostrophes in the wrong places.
There are some things you need to do, too:
- Look at your dialogue. If you write "I am going to the zoo" and then say it aloud you will find that you will say "I'm going to the zoo". So write it. Contractions in speech are usual
- Consider punctuation as both a grammatical construct and as the makings of a tone poem. I don't mean 'use unusual punctuation because you are an author'. I mean 'punctuate to reflect what is going on'
- Kids behave like kids. Teens like teens. Adults like adults. So make sure they do.
- Choose a Point of View (first person, third person) and stick to it. If you flit from person to person I will put your story in the bin. It just isn't worth the effort involved to try to read it. The only exception to this is if it is an obvious literary stratagem.
- Use 95% facts and 5% fiction. Even Sci-Fi and Fantasy is based on real, supportable facts
- Describe things in a way that makes them live. Think back to that ten inch penis. Was it awesome, lovely, wonderful, impressive, terrifying, shapely, unexpected? What was the skin texture like? What colour was it?
- If using a particular geography, make it consistent. I know you will probably edit it a little, so remember the oddities of your landscape. If using a real place as a real setting make sure you know it well enough to show a visitor round because some of your readers have been there.
- Always use a new paragraph for a new speaker. No exceptions
- Decide when to use a person's name and when not to. We do not use each other's names often when we talk to each other, so use them sparingly.
- Understand with precision what a chapter structure is about. The end of a chapter finishes a concept or a scene. It may, rarely, mark an abrupt change, but, most usually, the end of one chapter will create a link to the start of the next. Closing a chapter moves the story forward because the reader understands what has happened in the author's mind when he or she closed it, and wants to move to the next one. Even so it is a breathing space, a useful place to have a cup of tea, make some toast, and scratch anatomical parts before proceeding.
- If your chapter is so long as to be a novel in its own right, you need to edit. Breaking the chapter into part one, part two, part three is not a valid technique. Edit the thing and break it into actual chapters, or remove great swathes of text. Either will do.
There are some rules of punctuation in dialogue; the choice is between 'punctuation inside the quotes' and 'punctuation outside the quotes'.
The rules are open to interpretation, but the most common is to place the punctuation inside speech quotes ("), and outside the quotes for items ('). Look at the previous paragraph for an example!
Dialogue is easy of you follow this consistently. An example: "Morning, sleepyhead," said Peter. "It's going to be a great day!" He yawned, scratched his head and carried on, "Did you like it when I said 'I love you' last night?"
Notice the capitalisation despite commas flying around the place. And note a mix of " and ' makes it easy to understand.
Well that was a sort of 'rules segment', but actually writing is harder. There are no rules. But I have some suggestions. They are in the simple phrase 'use your eyes and tell me what you see'.
I want simple details about things all of my senses can find. I want to see, smell, touch, hear, taste what is in front of me. I want to feel your pain and pleasure. I want to love at least one of your characters. So take me in my head to the place in your head by using the words on the page that your imagination puts there.
Once you have a grasp of this and you have a finished story, or have finished sufficient for me to make a judgment, then you should submit it.