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  Ten Tips for Writing a Publishable Novel
by Leslie Caine

1) Write from the inside out.
Determine what is fascinating about you, as well as what you find fascinating in life, and write from your unique perspective. That we each possess a story that we alone can write is the biggest advantage any of us have in the publishing industry. Use it!


2)
Anchor every scene with telling details.
Allow your reader to easily form a mental picture. Remember to remind readers what your characters look like and give your characters a tag so that they can be sorted out quickly. This allows your action to feel real and pulls the reader into your story.


3)
Establish author authenticity, which is what allows your reader to suspend disbelief.
Authenticity is established by seamlessly blending factual information into your story by virtue of those “telling details.” Authenticity is not achieved by the author’s simply knowing that his story is “how it really happened.”


4)
Accept the possibility that you might be writing or have written the wrong book.
We writers are too often derailed at criticism of our early attempts at fiction. We can keep trying to improve our initial work, as though we’re incapable of selling any manuscript if we can’t sell this particular one. No writing is ever wasted. You will carry what you’ve learned to your next manuscript.


5)
Start immediately before the inciting incident that will shift the balance of your main character’s life.
Let your reader in on how things were before this key shift of power occurred that has changed the hero’s life. That’s the fastest way to engage your reader in the story.


6)
Build your plot so that each action leads to a reaction that heightens the suspense.
The adult novel typically requires twenty plot points in which an action is taken or a discovery is made that forces the characters to react.


7)
Never let your character eat an apple when he can be eating fried Cheerios.
This is another way of saying: Make every word count. If you can, in this example, show your character eating something unusual, you enliven your prose and characterize at once.


8)
Wonderful, compelling characters can compensate for almost anything.
We read fiction for characters. Without them, the plot is just a string of events, and we can read about events in the newspaper. As you write, remember that each and every one of your characters has lived for many years before page one takes its first snapshot of their lives.


9)
Conflict is the heart and soul of fiction.
Strand your hero on the face of a cliff and throw rocks at him. When you’re being nice to your hero or heroine, you’re being bad to your book. Keep the conflict—and hence the suspense—going till the very end.


10)
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.
It’s surprisingly tempting to send off a manuscript when the writer knows it’s not quite as good as it can be, or to send it to an editor or agent who isn’t looking for this type of work. That provides a ready excuse for why the book was rejected, but also all-but guarantees that it will be.


Copyright 2004 Leslie Caine. All Rights Reserved.


* Leslie Caine is the author of the mystery DEATH BY INFERIOR DESIGN for Bantam/Dell, as well as 10 mysteries for Ballantine published under the name Leslie O’Kane.

For more information please visit the author’s website at
www.lesliecaine.com

 



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