Does your writing contain the Three E’s?
I’ve been thinking about great stories and why they are special to me. Have you analyzed your favorite books? I’m talking about the kind of books that hit you in the gut with raw emotion, the kind that sweep you into another world, the kind that teach you valuable lessons- the kind of books that hit their mark. As writers, we can take away lessons of remarkable writing by examining why and how a book resonates with us.
I recently read a hidden gem of a book: A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. (You may have heard of the recent film that unfortunately didn’t receive much publicity in the States, which was a shame, because it should have.)
The reason I think this book is AMAZING is because the writing hit me straight and clear, like an archer’s arrow to the bulls eye. The author conveys so much emotional conflict in so few words, it left me feeling open and vulnerable and empty and full, all at the same time.
And it’s quick. What I mean is that the story is not overfilled with description, fluff, back story, etc. It is simple and true and outright smart. It is a strong and remarkable story. Mr. Ness’s way of expressing the angst of a young man’s pain was fascinating to read and absorb. It is one of those kinds of stories I wish to write.
Now, I’m not saying that effective stories have to be short and quick- this is just one example of the many brilliant books out there. Some are long and some are short, but the extraordinary ones all leave you feeling different than before you read it. Isn’t that what we as writers hope to accomplish?
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others; read a lot and write a lot. ~ Stephen King
In working to improve your writing, think about your favorite stories and how you can apply certain writing techniques to your own work. Take a deep look at why you liked it so much. What made that book so delicious and absorbing, or maddening or sad? What was it that made it satisfying to you, as the reader? Was it the characters, the sentence structure, the plot twists?
What kind of tricks can you impart in your story to intrigue your reader, grasp their soul and make them remember your story long after the last page is turned? That’s the kind of writing I’m talking about. Have your arrow hits its mark- straight into the heart of the reader.
So then, how do we write with this type of magic?
It seems to me that the stories that win our hearts over have three common denominators. (Well, that sounds scarily like mathematics class- common characteristics, shall we say?) And they are…
Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Excellence.
The Three E’s.
Effective writing can mean many things. Ask yourself: What makes a story effective for you, as a reader? What makes it take hold of you and not let go?
Stories can go from good to great when they combine several elements, such as:
- Solid plots and twists
- Smart sentence structure
- Realistic dialogue
- Established points of view
- Strong characters
- Engaging action
Try to include these elements in your stories to keep your reader hooked.
Efficient writing is using a minimum number of words to convey meaningful moments, including dialogue, to elevate your reader to the plot climax.
Many famous authors recommend the approach of “Less is Better”. That is, say what you have to say with a minimum amount of words. Don’t over-describe, over-exaggerate and over “talk” your characters. Why? Because your readers can -and like to- fill in the gaps with their imagination. Remember that in real life, people don’t always over-explain what they are doing. Unless you want your story to read like a technical manual, avoid this. Show rather than tell.
Again, I’m not stating that stories need to be short- just efficient. I have read some really long books that didn’t need to be so, but some that did and it worked. The same goes for short books- some are perfect that way, other stories should be longer. It all depends on the necessity of the story. The trick is to figure out what fits your story, include the proper elements and be efficient with your words.
Are you an effective and efficient writer? Do you grasp the attention of your reader and refuse to let go? It takes practice. Writing is basically just lots and lots and lots of practice. The pianist begins with chords and scales before she can play a masterpiece. The artists paints many works before a gallery accepts his art. The professional basketball player, uh, never mind- they may be born with it. But writing is practice. Years of it, actually. You keep going, you keep writing, and each time you get better and better and better. That is Excellence.
Writers want readers to anticipate their next book. That is the ultimate payoff. Money earned is a great side benefit, of course, but the ultimate satisfaction is appreciation, and we want people to truly enjoy our stories.
As you write, be mindful of capturing your reader, reeling them in, and keeping them engaged. When it all comes together in the right places at the right time, your stories take on lives of their own.
The Three E’s will sell your next piece of writing. If you have held your reader over the edge of a cliff and dangled them, holding their breath for your next move, then you have done your job.
So, remember the Three E’s:
Effective and Efficient writing becomes Excellent writing.
And, if you’re looking at ways to further improve your writing, check out 13 Ways to Grow as a Writer.
P.S. This post discusses fictional writing, but you can use the Three E’s in non-fiction, essays and articles too. Keeping your reader engaged and absorbed is the goal of all types of writing!