The Top 10 Elements of a Book People Want to Read!

 

 

 

 

Many Indie writers are just now finishing their summer novel writing and will publish soon!  I thought it would be a great time to repost this article about the elements of good writing for readability!

By Writer Digest contributor, Helga Schier, PhD, Editor, Guest Column | March 16, 2015

This guest blog is written by Helga Schier, PhD, former Big Five editor and founder of With Pen and Paper, an independent editorial services firm. With over 20 years of experience in the (self-)publishing industry. For more information, visit http://www.withpenandpaper.com

Aim for High Readability

People enjoy books with a high level of readability—books with a captivating story and memorable characters, books we can’t put down, books that stick with us long after we’ve read the last word.

As an independent editor, I’ve come across my fair share of readable books, and all of them are well crafted on three distinct but intricately connected levels.

  • The surface structure of the words on the page, which includes grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • The level of style and voice, which is defined by the choice of words, the sentence rhythm, the use of literary techniques and images, and the tone or approach
  • The content level, where the fictional world comes to life.
  • Highly readable books are polished, refined, sophisticated, and mature on all three levels. To fulfill the potential of your book, develop and sharpen the following top ten elements.
  1. Your Words Are Your tools; Make Sure They Are in Working Order.

Avoid typos, sort out commonly mistaken words such as die/dye or there/their/they’re. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Watch your grammar—make sure your nouns agree with your verbs and the personal pronouns fit. If a paragraph begins in the past tense, it likely ought to end in the past tense, too. Figure out where those commas go to help your readers make sense of your sentences. Sounds basic? It is. So run that spell-check and get it right.

  1. Check for Inconsistencies.

Writers revise their work constantly. As a result, characters may appear or disappear at random, because chapters were rearranged; subplots remain unresolved, because chapters were cut; and timeline issues may tiptoe in. Looking for inconsistencies and holes in your story is an integral part of polishing your work.

  1. Avoid Overwriting.

Your style or voice should step into the background to serve your story. No need for a clever metaphor in every sentence, or for an adjective before every noun. Avoid complicated sentences if a simple sentence will get your point across. Avoid inflated sentences and unnecessary introductory or summarizing phrases. Don’t be verbose—every sentence has a point; get to it.

  1. Avoid Underwriting.

Allow your language to adapt to its context. Using the same words and/or sentence structures repeatedly makes a novel repetitive and monotonous. If the teenage girl and the CEO of a multibillion dollar company have the same voice, we’ll learn more about the writer than about the characters and their relationships. Avoid clichés and create your own personal images instead. Or use clichés and stereotypes to your advantage—say, to define a character.

  1. Make Sure Your Characters Are More Than a Name.

As a reader, I want to be able to relate to your characters. I don’t have to always like them or agree with their choices, but I want to understand why they say and do whatever it is they say and do. I want to care for them, fear and worry with them. Therefore, your characters need to be recognizable and unique at the same time. They need to be complex rather than cardboard cutouts, and dynamic rather than passive. Even a bad guy deserves a redeeming quality.

  1. Show, Don’t Tell.

“He was anxious.” Or: “She was happy.” Or: “They were angry.” That’s telling. Trouble is, this does not really tell me what I am to imagine. Is he chewing his nails? Is she smiling as she embraces her newborn baby? Are they raising their voices to a level that could be heard down the block? That’s showing, and it conjures up a clear image in your reader’s head. And that’s what you want.

  1. Sharpen that Dialogue…

Dialogue passes on information between characters and to the reader. Dialogue propels the plot forward. And, dialogue reveals the personality of the dialogue partners, as well as their relationship. Avoid repeating small talk, too much clever banter, and uninterrupted speeches. At least two people should exchange information, ask questions, answer them, comment, fight, tease… whatever. The way your characters interact with each other says a whole lot about them and about their relationship.

  1. …And Expose that Subtext.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. Every conversation has a subtext. Dialogue is not only about what is being said, but also about how the dialogue partners feel about and relate to each other. Do they like each other? Who has the upper hand? Do they trust each other? Show us in their gestures, glances, body language, and behavior while they’re talking. Is anyone leaning in or moving away? Anyone nervously fidgeting with a pen? Anyone looking out the window because he is bored or to the floor because she is ashamed? The narrative must support the dialogue by exposing the underlying tension, conflict, and motivation of your characters.

  1. Drive the Plot Towards Your Reader’s Aha-Moment.

A readable novel provides meaning to the world we live in, which is to say that the succession of events must make sense. Your characters react to these events in ways that are motivated by their psychological disposition. The interplay of events and character behavior moves your plot forward. The writer’s hand should remain invisible. Therefore, prepare your plot twists within the novel before they happen, and give your characters a reason for their behavior. These clues should not be so obvious that we can predict the way your story goes, but in retrospect, once the plot has twisted a certain way, your preparation must become clear. It’s your readers’ aha-moment, if you will.

  1. Build Your World.

Stories don’t happen in a vacuum. Your story could happen in China in the distant past, in present day America, or in the future on a planet you imagined. Your readers need to know how your world compares to theirs. This is world building, which involves establishing a clear timeline, a recognizable locale of your overall story, and, just as importantly, the ambiance of any given scene.

As a writer, you must create a world populated with characters who live their lives before our eyes, and you must do so with words only. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] There is no camera to show us that the police car drives off with lights flashing, no sound to give us the sirens, and no actors to make a comment sound bored or sexy or irritated or funny or scared. Your words and their rhythm build your world and make it turn.

Your words are your tools; make sure they are in working order.

The Tyranny of Fire and Fury

Looking back in human history, one can see that war is the quickest way a Tyrant can assert power to destroy democracy and rule as dictator.  However, how does a nation recognize a Tyrant?  Here are some famous quotes to consider.

All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.” Alexis de Tocqueville

“In every age, it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People.” Eugene V. Debs

The world is made up for the most part of morons and natural tyrants, sure of themselves, strong in their own opinions, never doubting anything. Clarence Darrow

Ignorance has always been the weapon of tyrants; enlightenment the salvation of the free. Bill Richardson

The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.  Albert Camus

It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. Henry A. Wallace

Tyrants always have some slight shade of virtue; they support the laws before destroying them. Voltaire

Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.  Bill Moyers

“Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.” Lysander Spooner

“The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law.” Christopher Hitchens

 

 

Book Review Monday! Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Uniquely Magical, Alien, and Danger-at-Every-Turn Mystery Thriller! Great Story!

This magical, alien driven, strong female heroine story, first captured my attention by its interesting cover and title. This story takes place in a normal appearing small town in the present day, with chapter one opening with, “Brutus is dead”. Well, I had to find out what happened to Brutus and from that moment, I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading. Our intriguing Heroine, Dina, keeps us guessing about who, what, where, and when, as she struggles to resolve the mysteries surrounding her – while managing to stay alive. This fascinating story takes you by surprise with exciting and scary alien adventures from the very first page with unique mysteries, good writing and complex characters that will make your head spin. The ending left some unresolved issues, however, they are carried over to book 2. Anyone looking for a good mystery involving human and alien magical interactions, this is it.

THE GIRL IN BLACK by Kathy Lauren Miller – A REVIEW

“The Girl in Black” by Kathy Lauren Miller is a hauntingly taut murder mystery as well as an awesome page-turner! The mystery begins with high school senior, Kate Mckenna who happens to live in an old Victorian manor that is also the Mckenna Memorial Funeral Home. Her father, Dr. Brendan Mckenna, happens to be the county’s Chief Medical Examiner. Shy Kate, whose social life as always been nearly non-existent until she is thrust into the limelight when the promiscuous prom queen, Ashley is found tortured and murdered.

Accusations run rampant in Kate’s High School concerning several male students that were involved with Ashley. To make matters worse, Ashley’s remains now reside at the funeral home where Kate lives. Kate and her best friend Cooper, a computer nerd, and Kate’s unattainable heartthrob, handsome Shane, all become involved in Ashley’s murder. Suddenly, Kate finds herself in the cross hairs of the sadistic killer and the vengeful ghost of Ashley, the murdered prom queen. What happens next is beyond Kate’s worse nightmare. The Girl in Black is a fascinating and terrifying murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. I highly recommend this book. (less)

The GasLighting of America!

gettyimages-631482662 “If Donald Trump can undercut America’s trust in all media, he then starts to own them and can start to literally implant his own version of reality.” http://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/some-experts-say-trump-team-s-falsehoods-are-classic-gaslighting-n711021

“The behavior has all the signs of “gaslighting”, says clinical psychologist Bryant Welch, who wrote a 2008 book entitled “State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind”. Gaslighting refers to a 1944 film in which a murdering husband manipulates and confuses his wife by dimming the gas lights in their home and then denying it’s happening.

“The very state of confusion they are creating is a political weapon in and of itself,” Welch told NBC News. “If you make people confused, they are vulnerable. By definition, they don’t know what to do,” added Welch, who has not personally examined any of the Trump team.

“This is a pretty systematic, sophisticated attempt to gaslight.” “There certainly is a general stereotype that politicians lie,” said Robert Feldman, a University of Massachusetts psychologist and deputy chancellor who specializes in the psychology of lying. But Feldman and Welch both said the statements Trump and his staff made on the very first days in office rise to a new level.  “It is lies about things that are so easily contradicted that it is amazing in terms of the degree of arrogance and the lack of respect that it shows for the American people,” Feldman said.

 

***Bending and manipulating, skewing the truth, causing mental confusion, is classic Chaos techniques, until we walk of the edge of the cliff and we’ve been had, taken for the fools that we are by confusion as to what is real and not real. Telling us how horrible the journalists are as rotten dirty deceitful scoundrels deflects what is really going on – the slow painful destruction of our Democratic Republic until it becomes right under our noses a authoritarian dictatorship. These leaders know what they are doing, they have the “Play Book” right in front of them. What these sly, crafty “manipulators” wish to create is Chaos until, like Russia it is too late, goodbye to freedom of the press, to writers, teachers, even religious leaders. These highly skilled manipulators create falsehoods as truth. So, Grab the Seat of your Pants…we are in for a bumpy ride and I hope we come out of it still being a Democratic Republic – I have my doubts.  K. D. Dowdall

THE MAN OF INIQUITY

Warrior Angel

 

 

 

 

The followers of the madness of a man have lost their way by hate and fear. They do not know the iniquity they follow.  He plays the game with ill intent to ruinous ways he leads all, when the good and the brave fail to act. So, fear not brave souls. A man wants us to be afraid, so do not be afraid. Stand up and say the truth loud and clear! The darkness always vanishes in the light of day.

HOW TO WRITE THE PERFECT SYNOPSIS

 

Royal FP(From a Writer’s Work Shop)

Most agents will ask you to send them a submission pack containing three items:

  • A covering letter (see advice here and sample here)
  • A synopsis
  • The first three chapters / 10,000 words of                                                                         your novel

Most agents will look at the covering letter first, then turn to the manuscript. If they like the first three chapters, they’ll be thinking, “This book looks really interesting. I’m definitely tempted . . . but is the author going to hold my interest over the full 300 / 400 pages? Is it worth me making that investment of time to read the whole thing?”

That’s where the synopsis comes in. The synopsis is there to answer the question, “What is the story of this book? Is there a clear story arc and will there be a satisfying ending?”

Obviously the actual experience of reading a synopsis is quite underwhelming. Synopses are boring, technical documents which (we hope) would not be true of your novel. But that doesn’t matter. Agents know synopses are dull, so all your synopsis really has to do is:

  • tell the agent in very clear terms what your story is
  • make it clear what your hook / premise / elevator pitch is (more info here)
  • give some kind of feeling for why the story matters & how the jeopardy increases
  • sketch out an ending that feels satisfying

But – and this should be reassuring – agents do know that synopses are hard to write and they care less about the synopsis than any other part of your submission package.That means you probably don’t need to worry excessively about your synopsis – just follow the guidelines below and you’ll do just fine.

How to write a perfect synopsis

A perfect synopsis has the following ingredients:

  • Length: 500-800 words
  • Main purpose: Summarise your plot
  • Secondary purpose: Make it clear what Unique Selling Point your book has
  • Language: Be businesslike: clear, to the point, neutral.
  • Presentation: Be well-presented: no typos or spelling mistakes. Normal font size, normal margins. Line spacing no narrower than 1.5
  • Character names. It helps if you put the names of main characters in bold or CAPS when you first introduce them. That way, if an agent has forgotten who Carlotta is, it’s easy for them to skim back and jog their memory. (Remember that agents are reading a lot of these things, so they have about a million character names in their heads at any one time.)
  • Extra points. It’s certainly not essential, but if you have a really compelling way to ‘sell’ your story in 2-3 lines maximum, then you could insert that little snippet up at the top of your synopsis as a way of reminding agents why they’re interested in this MS in the first place. For example, a certain Ms Rowling might have opened her synopsis with, “Harry Potter, an orphan, thinks he is an ordinary boy when an owl brings him a letter inviting him to attend wizard school.” That’s not strictly speaking synopsis material, but it does instantly emphasise the book’s appeal.
  • And remember: Tell the story: your job is not to sell the book, write dust jacket blurb, or anything else. Just say what happens in the story. That’s all you need to do.

And luckily there are things you don’t need to do:

  • Go into great detail about setting. If you were writing a synopsis for a Jane Austen novel for example, you might simply say “This novel is set in a small village in Regency England.”
  • Go into vast detail about character – a few quick strokes are all that you need. For example you might say: “Bridget Jones – a ditzy, mildly boozy twenty-something – …”
  • Be scrupulous about plot detail. It’s fine to skip over subplots or ignore some of the finer detail of how X accomplishes Y. The truth is, you won’t have time to include those things in a 700 word summary anyway. Agents know that the synopsis is at best an approximation of the story so you don’t need to have a troubled consicence.
  • You also don’t have to give away your very final plot twist – though you should make it clear that there is one. For example, you could write, “When Olivia finally catches up with Jack at the abandoned lighthouse, he tells her the real secret of his disappearance – and their final bloody reckoning ensues.” Mostly though, a synopsis is the ultimate plot spoiler, and your job is just to spill the beans whether you like it or not.