Andi Cumbo-Floyd www.andilit.com is my developmental editor and I requested that she write a guest blog about what she has done for me. Below is her reply.
I love Patty Lesser. I need to start with that, not because this is her blog but because it’s true. I love her as a person AND as a writer. She has one of the best storytelling minds I’ve ever seen. (You have read her books, right? Feel free to go get them now. I’ll wait.)
I have the honor of being Patty’s editor, and so I get to read her books first. (I know – it’s okay to be jealous.) So I’ve had the privilege of working with Patty as she grows as a writer, and in that time, we’ve worked hard to make her books even better . . .
To improve her work – and EVERY writer has room to improve, we’ve focused on three things, three ways that every fiction writer can improve their work. Here you go:
Choose a point of view and be true to it. If you decide that the best viewpoint from which to tell your story is in the mind of a 38-year-old monk who is narrating the story, then that monk needs to tell every bit of the story. You can’t suddenly have a 6-year-old girl that he sees on the street in Singapore share her thoughts because the monk can’t know what she’s thinking. You have to wed yourself to the monk and then use other tools – description, dialogue, internal monologue – to get across what we need to know about that young girl.
Remember that your characters have bodies. It’s really easy to get all heady in our writing, to have our characters do a lot of thinking and talking and forget that they have bodies that move. So be sure to incorporate movement, especially in the sections of dialogue. Have them move an arm or walk a certain way. Make them tilt a head or lean away from the person to whom they are speaking. Embody them, and they will live more fully for your readers.
Follow your story, not the idea you have for your story. This advice can sound like a lot of hokum if you haven’t yet experienced the fact that your characters have full lives of their own, lives that don’t necessarily succumb to your will. But they do – and if they don’t, maybe spend more time with them to hear their histories, find out their favorite brand of chocolate, and consider whether their cars are disasters or models of cleanliness that belong in showrooms. Once you know your characters, you have to let them live and do things that might go against your plan for the story. Those new paths are always going to be more rich than anything you’ve set out for them because that’s how life works – it’s not controllable or predictable.
So be like Patty – try out those things if you don’t already do them, and then let us know how they work for you in a comment below.