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Tips to Write Like a Pro

So a couple of months ago I attended another writer’s conference in my area. I’ve meant to share some of what I’ve learned with all of you, so that’s on the agenda for today. One speaker, Brian A. Klems, talked about some tips to write like the pros. I won’t go over all of them with you, since we’ve talked about some of them already. But I will go over some of the ones that stood out to me along with my thoughts about them.

Don’t just open with action, open with conflict

Get your readers hooked from sentence one and sympathizing with your character. And action doesn’t just mean a car chase or an explosion. But the character shouldn’t just be sitting around and thinking. Move the plot forward from the beginning towards the inciting incident and the rest of the story.

Speaking of the inciting incident, it is crucial to your story

It is the impetus to the rest of the story and builds to the climax. For a good example of what an inciting incident is, let’s look at the Hunger Games. The inciting incident occurs when Katniss’s sister is picked for the Reaping and Katniss volunteers to go in her place. The rest of the story couldn’t happen without this event and it sets up the conflict for the rest of the story. The inciting incident isn’t the same as your hook. Your hook is what starts your story and pulls the reader in and gets them asking questions. The inciting incident comes after, unless you are using the Fichtean Curve as your story structure.

Don’t include too many adjectives and adverbs

These don’t work as well as strong verbs and concrete nouns. And adjectives can often be vague. Pretty doesn’t tell us anything about what she actually looks like. And don’t use things like ran quickly, use sprinted, dashed, or raced. Stronger verbs are always better than adverbs.

Avoid passive voice

Passive voice is where the object of the sentence becomes the subject. So instead of “Bob threw the ball,” we have “The ball was thrown by Bob.” If you’re unsure whether a sentence is passive or not, see if you can add “by zombies” at the end of the sentence. If it makes sense, it’s passive and should be changed to active voice. Active voice is easier to read and much more immersive.

Hooks aren’t just for the beginning of your story

Keep raising questions for the reader in each chapter to keep those pages turning.

Characters are a priority and should be complex

Each main character should be unique and memorable. All characters, even the minor ones, need three things; a goal, a flaw, and motivations driving them. This will make your characters well-rounded and drive the plot forwards while creating tension. After all, goals conflict between characters. And without conflict, you don’t have a story. Flaws are important to make your characters relatable and believable to the reader. This is crucial and a good step towards getting your reader to care about your characters.

Watch your verb tenses

Don’t switch back and forth between present and past tense, for example. It’s jarring for the reader and should be something you catch in editing. The same applies to POV. Don’t switch from first to third, unless it’s intentional, such as when writing journal entries versus exposition.

Stay consistent

If you use the Oxford comma, use it each time. If you spell it grey instead of gray, stick to it. If you use OK instead of okay, keep to the acronym. Stay consistent.

Those were the tips that really stood out to me that I wanted to share with you. What do you think of these tips? Do they help you progress? Share your comments below and happy writing!

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