Thoughts on Some Writing Strategies

See Writing Strategies for Authors. It’s succinct and to the point. It’s a bit new-writer-ish. When it comes to fiction, that’s me: a new writer. 

Two of the strategies stand out. One in a good way, and one not so good.

Strategy, #1, Start Off Strong, is near and dear to my heart. It’s essential for querying, since you only get a few words of a pitch and the first few pages to sell the book. 

Consistent with this advice (and others like it,) I cut my original Chapter 1. I’m told it’s common to have a backstory chapter that needs to be deleted. Also, as a technical writer, I feel drawn toward clarifying context before diving into details. But. It’s not fun-to-read fiction if everything is carefully organized. I wanted an “establishing shot,” but it wasn't a strong opening.

I’m pretty sure getting thrown in jail counts as a strong start. it seems bad; it requires the MC to take action. In a sense, it’s passive, but it’s an initiating incident, and it requires a response.

There’s an intentionally ambiguous modifier on the opening page. This may be a “too clever” thing that is seen as “can’t write properly.” Maybe it should be cut.

I’m confident I have most of the other writing strategies covered. #2 Progress the Plot, and #3 Captivating Characters are — I think — part of The Forge. It’s (#4) a Passionate Pursuit. 

Strategy #5, Entertain and/or Educate is slippery. As a non-fiction writer, I do a lot of writing to educate. What I’m working on now, however, is writing to entertain. 

But.

While it’s escapist #EpicFantasy, there’s a nuanced bit of “education” lurking behind the entertainment. There’s always a kind of moral exposition in a story, and a value judgement by writer (and reader) on whether on not the characters were good people. Did they earn their reward? Was their punishment merited?

As a writer of #grimdark, I sometimes think I’m beyond this pandering to good-people-win-bad-people-die-horribly dualism.

But I’m not.

When good people die, it’s a tragedy, and it’s central to how other characters will respond. When bad people die, the reader may be as happy to seem them go as some of the characters. The story may be bleak in places, but the characters have hope and a moral arc, even if it is crushed and broken by circumstances.

 © F. L. Stevens 2019