1. Picture your audience readers/characters/self naked
Obvs, this just makes things weird. Why is are your audience readers naked? Do they need a blanket? Are those handcuffs they are being escorted out in? All of these and other less appropriate questions a speaker writer will find themselves asking instead of just, like, you know, speaking writing. If you want to picture anything instead try picturing your book, the world, or your words. Any and all of that. Forget that there are readers at all. When you’re writing it’s no use trying to guess what people want. Speaking as a reader as well as a shoe collector, toast burner, and writer, readers don’t know what they want mostly anyway. Asking their opinion before you have a book is like asking me what the cinnamon swirls you’re baking might taste like if you added pineapple — I’m totally up for finding out but you do have to make something for me to taste first and why are we talking about this let’s go do it. You. Me. Kitchen. Now.2. Speak about Write only what you know
The important word in this is only. Only speak about write what you know. Only speak what you feel. Only think what you have already thought before. Only. Aside from being quite dull, this is no way to write a book if you are writing fiction (I will admit non-fiction is a bit more tricky if you don’t know things like what happens to you when you get sucked into a blackhole or why e=mc2, just why). There are things that require research (sometimes intensely so!) and things that require knowledge; these are two separate matters. You can research the average temperature of an industrial bread oven but it’s up to you to know what the taste of that first, sublime, succulent loaf might be like when all the years of doubt, pain and questioning just fall away and you know that bread making is what you were born to do. Bread making is what strings your universe together. That emotion, that needs knowledge, everything else in our lives is just speculation anyway (see my previous question about why e=mc2; seriously, why; not how, I want to know why). Anyway, this is a great thing! We all have a lot of feelings so using our knowledge of them often results in fabulous things.
3. Start with a joke bang
Hooks are important, sure, but starting with a joke bang is not always the right thing to do. At a funeral In a book that is a harrowing tale of horror inter-spliced with cookery, for example. Start as you mean to go on. The first lines of a story allow a reader the chance to take the measure of your tale. They take a peek at your prose and they enter into an unspoken contract with you based upon those words. If a fast paced start suddenly becomes slow and meandering and never picks up again honestly, it’s like we’re in a restaurant and you ordered the pasta with flaming mongoose feathers and the waiter brings out cold soup. The soup is nice! Delicious! But it’s not what you ordered and it’s minus a billion outside and you thought you were getting spicy on fire pasta with the dangly herbs and you’re not and for that the meal is getting 2/5 even though on any other day you might have loved it.
4. Show don’t tell or tell don’t show
It’s just very tiring if you only ever hint at things, and never drop a knowledge bomb, or vice versa. Communication Storytelling needs to relax the audience reader as much as it excites them. When you’re relaxed you’re a sponge — able to suck up a wealth of interesting words and etc. When you’re bogged down in phrases you don’t understand the opposite might be true. It is of course a fine balance! And I think everyone has their own special recipe when it comes to show vs tell. But it is very important not to blindly charge in only doing things one way because you have been told it is better. Decide on your own! Be more than the sous chef of your own literary kitchen!
5. Don’t rehearse edit, just do
Nobody is great at something the first time around. Even when it seems like you’ve found somebody who is, in fact, fantastic at getting a poached egg just how you like it in the morning you have to realise that there was a time when they weren’t good at cooking eggs. There was a time when none of us were. Practice, editing, and revising, is how we improve ourselves — not just on a literary scale but in life too. We learn, we edit down ourselves or a joke or our favourite cake recipe and then we release a slightly newer version of our opinions or our world views or our favourite foods and we move forward. It’s okay to edit. It’s human to revise. And it’s fun to find little gems in drafts that are rough around the edges.
What other pieces of advice have you been given or heard that don’t seem up to scratch? I am so sorry food featured heavily in this post let’s all go have a quick snack before we discuss this in detail.