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Bob Nailor

How To Writer Better and Faster

Everyone wants to write a complete novel in the least amount of time. Some say a weekend (not enough coffee in the world for me to do that!) while others say 30 days (National Novel Writing Month) and even more claim it takes three to six months or longer.

I have done the 30 day challenge several times, failing only the first time. In my defense, I attempted to do a cookbook and it was the year my dad passed away the prior month. Just not a good combination. but the learning experience was great.

There are some simple rules to make writing better and faster. They are:

Let's examine each aspect -- just a little.

Outline: I have found outlining to be a way to keep me on target but I also know that if a certain story line strays on a tangent, sometimes it is worth the visit to see where it will go. I was able to add almost five chapters just by letting the story tell itself rather than forcing it into the square I'd designed. So, outlines are a guide but they aren't carved in stone. If a story changes, if following an outline, remember, there are sub-categories with outlining. Use them. I like to claim I use clay and don't let it dry out, but in reality, I use a word processor and table, adding sections as necessary to accommodate the alterations. By the way, that stray of five chapters allowed me a twist I'd missed and a very powerful ending - much better than the one I'd originally planned.

Research: Know what you write. Research will help you gain that edge. I like to call it "instant Einstein" because I will study my subject matter and get quite knowledgeable while I am writing. Of course, three to four months later, I have some facts locked into my brain tissue, but the rest has dribbled out through the sieve I call my cranial matter. For my novel Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold I found myself off on so many different research areas. I filled two binders with information. Some of the potions and chants are based on actual concoctions. I just tweaked them for my usage.

Write Simple: One word can replace a thousand if it is the right word. An example: John joined Jim, Pete, Paul and Tom at the table. He took the seat in the middle with Jim and Paul to his left and Pete and Tom to his right.

The rewrite: John joined the others at the table. He took the middle seat between the four men.

Yes, word count definitely got clobbered but better to have tight writing than superfluous fluff words. The rewrite was tighter and gave the exact same impression as the original, the only difference was the names. Who cares about who sat on the left and right? Publishers want to pay for solid writing, not extra words. So when you write, use the KISS method - Keep It Seriously Simple or Keep It Simple Stupid, your call.

Audience: So, you are writing a book about zombies who attack the aliens who are invading the planet only to be eluded by the humans who used star travel to escape. So who is your audience? Zombie lovers? Science fiction? Space fiction? Is it horror? The list can continue on and on but the bottom line is easy. Who is your audience? What target audience are you hoping to have read this masterpiece? Knowing who you want to read the story will help you to write the story and keep it on track. Deciding it will be a zombie story and about half way through realizing you might want it to be more science fiction can muddle your tale. And whatever you do, don't decide to throw in a romance between a zombie and alien at the very last minute.

Know English: This will definitely help you to write better and faster. Especially if you are hoping to publish in the English language. BUT, if you are a German, writing a German story, well, then, know German or whatever language you are planning to get your story published. If you know the words beyond the basics of "Yo!" and "How'ya doing" as a greeting, dialog will glow and write itself. Also, by knowing English, you must also know how to spell. I mean, like a rider really kneads two spell awl the words correckly. Trust me, it helps. By the way, my built-in spell checker only found ONE word as spelled incorrectly. There were definitely more.

Read Aloud: This is one of the best rule of thumb for any writer. Always take the time to read your piece aloud. I know it sounds stupid and like a waste of timem but if you read each word aloud, you will hear exactly how it sounds. Believe me, in our mind, the text flows beautifully and is very eloquent. When spoken aloud, certain words will come to surface repeatedly and any awkwardness of the sentence's structure will be noted. The best editor, before paying the "big bucks" for a professional editor, is sitting alone and reading aloud. Do have a red pen handy to correct the errors. You will discover "he said" and "she said" are not the innocuous and invisible words everyone claims them to be. Variations in sentence structure, or lack of variations, will become obvious.

I didn't list this one since it is an acquired item. Skill. As you write, and continue to write, you will hone your talent and in turn, gain skill. I have had the horrible pain of going back to read something I wrote several decades earlier. Cringe is an understatement. For the works not published, there is hope to improve them. For those that were published, I question how the submission made it beyond the trash pile, let alone the slush pile. Never, ever go back and read your work from the past. Move forward.

For me, writing is fun. I don't figure it will be a living salary but, as my wife likes to call it, a tidy sum of luxuries. Maybe I will get lucky and have a big seller. I dream of such and any writer who claims otherwise is living in denial. I want to see writers move forward and applaud any who make the success route. I will continue to write, striving for excellence.

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Sonya Contreras
A good resource to read to write concisely is WRITE TIGHT: Say exactly what you mean with precision and power by William Brohaugh.

Helps with redundancy, i.e. stand up (as opposed to stand down?) Things that we say without thinking.

Helpful article, Bob. Thanks.
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