(Please give a warm welcome to my returning guest Hank Quense)
By Hank Quense
Originally published by Writing-World.com March 2011
I'm an author of five books and over forty short stories along with a number of fiction writing articles. From my experience, I've learned a number important lessons and I want to pass them onto others. One important lesson involves getting a book published; it changes your life. No longer can you sit in your office and spend your time writing more fiction. Once you become a published author, you also become the book's marketing manager and its sales manager, a terrifying situation if you're not prepared for it.
To protect others from the trauma of this situation, I've put together a list of fiction writing techniques that will guarantee non-publication. Following them will ensure a rapid reply from editors who will use a preprinted form or a terse email. This rapid reply will allow you to maximize the rejections you receive in a given period of time.
Here is the list in no particular order:
• Always use adverbs! Lots and lots of adverbs. One of your writing objectives should be to use an adverb to modify at least fifty percent of your verbs. And don't forget about using them in dialog tags. Why show the reader a woman shredding a paper tissue? Make it easy on the poor readers. Tell them the woman is nervous. Thus, "He's making me so fidgety," she said nervously.
• A naked noun is evil! Adjectives exist to be used. Their primary purpose is to modify a noun, so make use of this most excellent writing technique. Load up your nouns with modifiers so the reader will have no doubts about the noun. "The skinny, ugly guy wore a hideous, ripped t-shirt, dirty, baggy pants and shredded sneakers." Here's an even better example of clever adjective usage: "The scrawny boy used his undersized biceps to try to pick up the clumsy weight and place it in the old-fashioned truck before the foul-mouthed old man became aware of his clever trickery." Get the idea? Remember, a naked noun is e-v-i-l!
• Use conversation. Don't limit yourself to dialog. Conversation is the stuff of life. Don't allow your characters to be stuck inside the story by restricting them to dialog that moves the story forward. Make your characters more life-like by letting them engage in idle conversation just like real people do." How you doing?"
"I'm cool. What's up?"
"I'm good. Couldn't be better. Watching the Yankees tonight?
"Who they playing? . . . Yada, yada, yada.
This stuff doesn't move the story along like dialog does, but it shows the characters are just as boring as real folk.
• Motivation is overdone. To properly show motivation requires a lot of creativity, time and words. It is much better to skip over that part and get right into the action. So what if the guy disarming the ticking bomb is only doing it because his shift doesn't end for two hours and he doesn't have anything better to do. The character doesn't have any motivation, but who cares; it keeps the story moving and doesn't slow it down with a lot of words explaining the motivation.
• Don't worry about Point of View rules. POV is perhaps the most technical of all aspects of writing and handling it correctly is time-consuming and requires advanced planning. Who needs all that extra work when there is another scene to write or another crisis to defuse. Most of the readers will figure it out and sort of follow the story.
• It's wise to develop writing habits such as peppering the page with -ing words. This technique will give your writing a pleasing sing-song effect. "Opening the door and running down the corridor while waving her hand, she tried shouting, calling attention to her life-threatening situation." Doesn't that sentence make you want to hum along from all the -ing words?
• Use empty words. Very, really, ever, still, just and others are words with no meaning but they do fill up sentences and make them look more impressive. Fiction writing is filled with opportunities to use these words and titillate the readers. With a bit of imagination, you can also use these words to punctuate the sentence.
• Why bother with multiple-dimensional characters? Flat characters work just as well. Flat characters can fight, love and die just as well as the more complicated ones, but take considerably less work. The simple approach gives you more time to write still more stories.
• Character Voice. This attribute allows the reader to identify the characters from their dialog "voices." What nonsense. That's what names are for. Just use the names in all the lines of dialog and the readers will be able to keep the characters straight.
Keep this list near your keyboard and refer to it frequently. Within a short time, your friends and family will be impressed by the huge stack of rejection notices you've accumulated. A side benefit is that your family will know you're really doing something in your office. Right now, they probably think you're goofing off and playing computer games.
If you chose to ignore this excellent advice, there are alternatives listed in my book, Build a Better Story. Note that following the advice in Build a Better Story can significantly increase the response time from editors.
Hank's latest project is Zaftan Miscreants: Book 2 of the Zaftan Trilogy. It will become available on October 15, 2011. He assures me he didn't use any of these techniques in the process of writing the novel.
He started a new website to handle the growing number of stories set in Gundarland and Zaftan 31B: http://strangeworldsonline.com
Thanks so much, Hank. Please come back soon!
Other quest spots by Hank: