We all want success. And most of us define it as making money from our writing. And that’s important, because sometimes writers think getting published means success is at their fingertips and they just have tp wait for the money to roll in. But here’s a bit of information for you, more than 75% of published writers fail.
What do I mean by “fail?” I mean they make little or no money from it. A lot of it has to do with advertising. People don’t know about your writing, they don’t like it, they don’t like you, they’ve never heard of you or your work, or worse of all, your writing sucks.
So what do I mean by “sucks?” I mean your writing is too complex. It’s too old fashioned. It’s not very readable or even readable at all. What is it about? What does it mean? What’s its message? Do the characters have issues? It’s slow. It’s boring. There’s no conflict. There’s too much conflict.
Writing is about balance. Yes, just as Mr. Miyagi says in the original “Karate Kid” film, “…you must have balance.” Don’t overwrite and don’t underwrite.
Balance is a tricky thing. One of my readers of my first ebook, told me that I had quite an imagination. What does that mean? I’m not really sure. It might be like when a beta reader tells you that your story is so lifelike, so real that’s its almost like being there. (Beta readers are the people you ask to read your story so they can help you find its weak parts; beta readers don’t buy your stories, alpha readers do.) Such a comment mostly means, “I’m trying not to hurt your feelings, but it bored me to tears.”
However, another reader told me he couldn’t put it down. (Which could also mean “it was so real, it was like being there.”) However, this reader went on to say he loved the way my characters personalities came out through the dialogue and how the dialogue also kept the conflict and story moving. And that my story was easy to read.
It feels good to know all that, except even after all this time, I’m still virtually unknown. I’m teetering on the brink of failure.
Yet, these are the positive points about my writing. My characters create the conflict. They live in the scenes. I try to keep description to a minimum but rather show things through how my characters behave with each other.
That’s what that phrase means. Its in every book on writing, on every podcast and video on writing, mentioned at every writing seminar and in every single writing class, “show, don’t tell.” Telling is descriptive writing. Keep it to a minimum. Showing is when your characters interact and they interact the most when they’re talking to each other. Use dialogue often. Let the story come out through the dialogue.
We live in a visual age. Movies, television, video games are all visual. Books rarely are. If you talk about an oak tree on hillside, most everyone can visualize–unless they’re blind. And that’s a whole different subject. So let your readers imaginations visualize it for them.
Now, an exception to that would be when you want to write how the oak smells or how its branches rustle and whisper in the wind. And, again, keep that detail to a minimum.
In my most recent e-novel, CHAOS COMPANY, ( which I don’t think anyone has bought yet, after so many months) I have a scene where my characters are in an abandoned office building watching the sunrise when one of them sees several objects in the sky approaching them. After a few moments, this character realizes the objects are aircraft coming their way and that they belong to an enemy. The characters’ dialogue presents this information to the reader. I could have just described it like this: They saw enemy aircraft in the sky and saw that it was coming their way. This works, too. But I wanted my characters involved with the approaching craft. Dialogue creates that involvement.
Another thing to know about description: long, involved passages were popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 21st Century, such descriptive passages are not so popular. You don’t want to limit your chances for success with tedious or boring writing.
What else do you need to know? Stories need to have meaning. If you’re ever asked, “What is your story about?” and you reply “It’s about a bunch of people climbing Mount Everest,” that is exciting and the person who asked you will want to know more. But if you said, “It’s about a bunch of people living in New York City,” that may not be so exciting. Yet, if you said, “It’s about a bunch of people living in New York City dealing with the days right after 9-11,” that’s really exciting. Your stories have to have meaning and purpose. And your characters need to grow. They need to change as the story progresses. And their personal issues (and yes, they better have personal issues) need to be something readers can relate to.
Fear of spiders is boring but everyone is afraid of death. Sex can be very exciting, but love is more exciting. What are your characters afraid of? What do they want out of lives? What do they feel has been stolen from their lives? Have they been cheated of their dreams?
What makes a story readable and real is what the characters feel. Their fears, their successes, their sorrows. Everyone experiences these things.
Make it happen.