Jul 23, 2011

Writing Expectations: Email to a Friend

by Cindy R. Williams

We all have high expectations. I expect to be back to my high school weight by Christmas. It could happen, that is if I'm willing to exercise four hours a day and eat only lettuce with mustard.

High expectations in writing are based upon where we are in our educational journey of writing.  I now have high hopes and more realistic expectations in the writing arena, thanks to beginning to understand the process of what it takes to become published, and more importantly, what it takes to write well.  

When people find out you are a writer you may hear things like, "I have a great story. How do I write it?" or "I am writing a book too, but I don't really know how. Will you fix it for me?"  I am always happy to help where I can, but sometimes what I have to say is not what other's want to hear. I give advice on writing and tips I have learned, but there is really no short cut. Writing is a craft, and as such, we must study and practice.  

The following is an email response to a friend hoping to write his book in his spare time this month and have it published possibly the next month. High expectations to be sure. I don't like popping other peoples dream bubbles but it is what it is. Here was my answer.
Hi _____,

Here are a few pointers.

Write your book like a three act play. Beginning, middle and end. May seem too simple, but bare with me:
1st Act establishes setting, characters and what problem(s) they must solve.
2nd Act is the journey which ends in the confrontation of the problem which will make the climax.
3rd Act is winding down, what happened from the journey and the results and change in the character(s).

Choose 1st person or 3rd person. You must stay with one or the other throughout the entire book.
Remember 1st person is telling the story fas if you are the character. Example:  I looked out the window and saw a dark shape weaving in and out of the bushes. A shiver ran up my back and my throat went dry. I knew deep inside it had come for me.
3rd person example: She looked out the window and saw a dark shape weaving in and out of the bushes. A shiver ran up her back and her throat felt dry. She knew it was coming for her. 
If you use 3rd person, you must remain in one person's point of view for the entire scene or chapter. This means if you have 2 characters or more in the scene, it has to be told from only one person's point of view. Switching the point of view within the same scene is confusing to the reader and a sign of an amateur writer.
Show don't tell. This means that you say, Her heart sank and tears trickled down her cheeks when she saw him kiss the other girl.  NOT: She saw him kiss his date. She was sad. It was supposed to be her.
Use dialog to reveal information, not just as chit chat.  
Try to stay away from words ending in "ly"  Also, try to limit words ending in "ing".
Use a variety of sentence structures.
Not too much slang. It dates your novel.
Toward doesn't have an "s" on the end.
Show how your characters feel about things by including what their body is doing. Instead of "She thought he looked hot." You could write; He walked into the room and she felt flushed when their eyes met. (Again, this is more of showing, not telling.)
Hope this gives you something to go on.  If it takes a little or a lot more time than you expected, keep at it. If it is important to you, you will stick with it as long as it takes. May I also suggest you look into some writing conferences, on-line writing classes or other writing classes? There is a ton more to writing, and I have only given you the tip of the iceburg.

       Best of luck,  Cindy

I haven't heard from this person since. I think he was hoping for easy advice or that I would take what he wrote, fix it and get it published for him. I wish I could. If it were that easy, I would have about 20 books published now instead of one.


  1. Nice.

    Towards is the British way of writing it. Kinda like colour vs color. But we can blame Ben Franklin for the latter.

    Leave it to us to be different. ;)

  2. Asking someone to be a critic should imply you are ready to accept their advice. You don't have too but you should. That said it is a language thing on some of this stuff. Giggle.

  3. What a great response, Cindy! and yes, the easy advice is always easier to take. sigh. If I follow your advice more closely, I might actually get a book published!


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