If you had told me in 1994 when my first book was released that I’d one day pass the 50 published book mark, I would have never believed you. Having reached that goal this past year gave me a reason to celebrate but also prompted a bit of soul searching about what I’d learned about writing along the way. I don’t know that the ones I’ve chosen to include here are the most important, but they are definitely near the top.
1. Write from your heart. Never let the writing become automatic or a matter of following someone’s arbitrary rules of plotting, dialect and scene structure. I’ve studied writing and I know the rules, but once I start putting my story into words, the rules pretty much fall by the wayside. Readers neither know nor care about rules or even about your ability to construct beautiful flowing sentences or unusual similes. They care about the story and the characters. Let them get lost in the story and you have them hooked.
2. Never confine the characters to your own preconceived ideas.
3. Never be predictable. When I first started writing, I worked with a critique group. While they were extremely helpful in many ways, they tended to tell me that I couldn’t do certain things. This was especially true in some of my early books. In Behind The Mask, they told me over and over I was too far out of the box. Fortunately, then as now, I didn’t believe in boxes. I took risk after risk and it paid off with a wonderful story that has been released several times and I still have fans who want to talk to be about that book.
Fall in love with your hero. My motto is that if you
don’t love him, how do you expect anyone else to. I found I was put to the task
with that when I wrote the five-book Sons of Troy Ledger series. After Troy
Ledger was found guilty of brutally murdering their mother when the five sons
were young boys, they each have to deal with their resentment and anger when
he’s released from prison years later on a technicality. If they came across as forgiving wimps, it
would be hard to respect them or to believe in them. Yet if they hate this man
who claims innocence and appears to still be grieving their mother, they will
come across as heartless. It was a thin line, but one that produced some of my
most popular characters ever and the bestselling of all my western series.
5. Never cheat the readers. I’ve read far too many books where I got to the last page and wanted to throw the book against the wall in disgust. I think you have to give the reader complete satisfaction in the suspense, the romance and the happy-ever-after. And the ending has to be believable. Don’t have the hero or heroine do a complete about face when you’ve given the reader no reason to see their growth before that. Don’t pull a murderer from nowhere when you haven’t laid the foundation. Don’t leave loose ends so that the reader is left feeling unsatisfied. If this means you need an epilogue, give them an epilogue. Build to a crescendo, keep them holding on and turning pages and then end with the emotional wallop they deserve.
Visit http://www.joannawayne.com/ to learn more about Joanna and her books.