Engage engage engage …

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

I will keep this short and sweet this morning as I have been updating the Paws Website and am pleased to announce that the next Paws Animal Writing Competition for Children is once again open for entries (link at the end of this email).

I was watching something at the weekend where someone was talking about the need to engage. He was in fact talking about radio and segments of time where you need to wholly engage the listener or you lose them.

The same can be applied to your writing. I am always waving my banner for character voice being the key connection you have to your reader. So it’s not you but the character the reader wants to engage with. And so I got to thinking about this whole process of engagement. How many times have you read something and got distracted, laid the book down, gone to make tea? Sometimes this is you, you’re not really in the mood, but if the writing really does have that grip factor and the story is compelling with a burning question the reader has to know the answer to, perhaps tea can wait, that TV show can wait, just let me get to the end of this chapter … etc. You have all been there. So now ask yourself what about that book, that particular one that had you lost in a fictive dream state for hours, what made you like that? What engaged you?

Now it’s hard to say any one thing that does this, right? So how will you know if you  have woven that magic ingredient into your own writing? Indeed  what is this thing you need? Well I think it’s a combination of knowing how to write well so your narrative is strong, exactly the right words in the right place so they flow like velvet. A voice that’s interesting, not generic, quirky, even odd but odd in an intriguing way, characters I want to invest the next few days of my life with (for a novel) and hopefully ones that will stay with me long after I finish the book. So they need to have something at stake I care about. And then page-turnability so tea turns cold on the table, I can’t put it down, marital relations are strained by the one more chapter thing. Right? Not that I want to be responsible for a breakdown in marital harmony — but then again, if it’s because of my book. Why not?!

Engagement is key and the reason why a lot of books fail is down to the weaknesses in the writer in not knowing how to do that. This is why I sometimes talk about narrative devices and technique. And why rejection should fuel the drive to make your work better. Learn what isn’t working. You can learn a lot from your own reading. Look at how scenes and chapters end, and what about that makes you turn to the start of the next chapter, even though you promised your wife one more chapter. I’ll turn out the light at the end of this one, I promise …

You must think about your reader as you write and remember it’s not just about telling a story, it’s how you tell your story, or should I say SHOW your story, because believe me — you film it and create the tension and narrative drive that way, it will start to have that can’t put down yet engagement. And always think active voice, not passive! Telling, too much exposition, clunky phrasing … and they’re making tea or turning out the light. Maybe better for martial harmony — but …

What kind of writer are you?

More tomorrow and if you know children who write, here’s more about the Paws Competition …

 

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Filed under a book deal, Acceptance, Being a professional editor, being a successful writer, Believing, Blogging, Born Free Foundation, Characterisation, Children wriitng, Clunky phrasing in writing, Creating fictional worlds, Critique, Editing, Endings, Exposition, Learning to be a writer, Literary Fiction, Living the dream, Mainstream Fiction, Novel writing, Passion for books, Passion for music, Passion for writing, Paws Animal Writing Competition for Children, principles in writing, Publishing, Reading, Subplots, Subtext, Wild n Free Book, Winning

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