Do you ever feel, as I do, that sometimes your scenes fall flat and you’re convinced there’s not enough oomph on the page to move your reader, let alone make an editor want to buy your story?
Here are three things I remind myself when I face that dilemma. Then a quick, but heavy, edit and rewrite usually gets me right back on track.
1. Get off the stage. The toughest challenge for any artistic creator is to resist the urge to show off. Our name will be on the cover, and we’d love to remind the reader with a turn of phrase or a choice word, “I’m the one fashioning this message.”
But the best writers, like the best composers and painters, know it’s not about them. It’s about the art, the content.
Anything that comes between the story and the reader—yes, even you—is intrusive.
A reader aware of your technique, even of your talent, may miss your message. If the pianist dazzles with his technique, the composer’s art may be compromised.
Entice readers by making every word count, using ones they’ll understand rather than ones that will make them wonder.
A true classic transports the reader. Force yourself to get out of the way so the heart of the message can reach the soul of the reader.
2. Don’t compromise. Remain true to your message. Be able to express it in one sentence and post it where you can see it as you write. It will keep you on point throughout the process.
3. Inject conflict. This is the failsafe. When nothing else brings your prose to life, conflict will. You’ve likely seen me write about this before, and you’ll see it again. It’s a sin to bore a reader, so if you have two characters in a scene and they’re merrily agreeing with each other, you’re sinning.
Just have one of them respond in a snarky, sarcastic, mean, disagreeable, angry, or defensive way (or all of the above), and see what happens. Conflict is the engine of fiction, and it will light up the page—and your reader.