Whether you want to learn how to write a romance novel or a thriller, read on, as all of the following tips will lead to a more readable book, no matter the genre.
Ignore the reader
In the beginning stages (especially if you are a new writer) you will want to ignore the reader. Fall into your own imaginary world, without the criticism or views of the outside world. This can be particularly important when writing fantasy, as anything is possible in a magical world, and you will want to open your imagination to new possibilities.
If you are constantly concerned what other people might think, then that is a recipe for stunted dialogue and unconvincing characters. Yes, it’s important to think about the reader later, but in the earlier stages, you have to be able to let go.
Know your readers
Think about who your readers are, and what they might want from your book. Do they want to be surprised? To feel scared? Are they reading for the magnificent world you have created, or to connect more to themselves? Perhaps they need a full belly laugh at times, or to cry?
Play to your strengths. This will help you to know which kind of audience you’re aiming at. This will also help during the later stages of marketing.
Have someone in mind
If you are feeling like you want to make more of a connection with your reader, then try having someone you know and love in mind, while you write. Make sure you have a deep emotional connection to that person and that you want to impress them or relate to them, through your writing.
JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter with her daughter in mind, and would read her segments of the book before bedtime. Steven King writes all of his books with his wife in the back of his mind, as his most honest critic.
Just like a good pop song, you want something that will hook the reader in and keep them reading. This could be some sort of question or information that you have left unsaid, something that is confusing to them, but will later be explained, or, even better, something they know, that the other characters don’t (i.e. the Alfred Hithcock, two-people-are-talking-but-the-audience-can-see-there-is-a-ticking-bomb-underneath-their-restaurant-table trick).
The end of every chapter should leave them wanting more, hungry to find out what happens next, and regretting how late they have stayed up reading your book.
Pick up the pace
These days attention spans are growing shorter and shorter. Some writers have adjusted to keep up with the pace.
For example, when using third person roaming (where you can wander around a bit during the story) you can write a beat that’s only a few pages long, drop in something that will move the plot forward, and leave the next part of the scene. Then you can jump back to another plotline elsewhere, leaving the reader constantly hooked on the last section.
For examples of this, check out Neil Gaiman or Louis Sachar’s work. Terry Pratchett was also a fan.
Write engaging characters
All of your characters need to be interesting enough for readers to care about.
Giving your characters something they need and a weakness or two makes them, and your story, more compelling. This is a prerequisite to being a protagonist, but if they always have something they are aiming for (i.e. not falling off of a ladder, or getting the groceries for their pregnant girlfriend) then the reader will be egging them on.
Tone of voice
This is what makes a huge difference to readers and is something they may not consciously be able to put their finger on themselves. But writing well and with an engaging tone of voice will make all the difference.
This can be developed by reading a lot of different authors and noticing how their style appears in your own work.
This means you are processing their styles and working out how you can use them. Eventually (when you have written enough) you will come to something you feel is your very own tone of voice. This can continually be honed and improved and is a very malleable part of the writing experience.
The one thing you don’t want to do, is to put on a different tone of voice for effect. The reader will spot it immediately and see straight through it. A lack of authenticity is one of the most off-putting things to read, so don’t do that.
Instead, notice what it is other authors do to make their copy fun or interesting. Terry Pratchet was skilled at making comical metaphor’s an art form. Enid Blyton has a tone of voice that could be equated to English strawberries and cream in a book.
The tone you write in will give the readers a feel for who you are and how well-read you are, so make sure to put your best foot forward. Develop your tone of voice and try it out on trusted readers that will give you their honest opinion.
Add conflict to low energy scenes
Conflict can be injected into even the most amiable of scenes – perhaps two characters are attracted to each other, but cannot find a way of speaking to each other other than through awkward expletives. Or perhaps your antagonist is climbing up a hill and trips over something. You get the idea.
Other than being told it was ‘boring’, the second-worst thing someone could say about your book is that ‘it wasn’t a very good ending’.
So get it right, think it through, and make sure you write something that fits with your characters’ development, as well as being a satisfying and interesting conclusion for your readers.
Once you have enjoyed writing something, you may well need to kill your darlings. You can often feel it. You know the difference instinctually, between a scene that you like that is working a moment that you like that doesn’t really fit with the plot, or perhaps the characters feel less authentic, etc.
Your editor may well tell you something isn’t working. Most of the time, they will be right. So cut whatever isn’t working for others, once you’re post first draft.
If you’re not enjoying your writing, no one else will. So make sure you relax and enjoy writing, whether you have a reader in mind or not.
And think about what you like. If you like it, likelihood is, that that is what you are going to enjoy writing, and others will enjoy reading it, too.