I thoroughly enjoyed writing my latest book, Third Chronicles of Illumination, because I love watching Johanna Charette, Jackson Roth, and the other characters in the series grow and develop. If my characters could reciprocate, I imagine they would say they like seeing me grow as a writer.
As an author, I like to think my books are perfect, but I would be lying to myself. Over the years, I’ve received a lot of advice (whether I wanted it or not) on the process of writing, and there are several pieces of advice that have stuck with me because they allowed my writing to move forward. Here are some of the tips that have helped me the most:
Don’t edit the first draft while you’re writing it.
When I started my first book, I would go back and try to polish my work before continuing onto the next chapter. Every day, I changed a lot on the words I had already written, rather than push forward. It took years for me to complete that book; it’s a wonder I ever did.
The first draft is called a first draft for a reason. It will be a mess when you finish writing it, but the bones of your story will be documented in black and white (or whatever color you choose). Once you’ve accomplished that, you can truthfully say you’ve written a book, and go back and edit it to your heart’s content. If, instead, you keep trying to perfect your words before the story is completely written, you may lose your vision, or your drive, long before it’s ever finished.
Write in an active voice.
There was so much I loved about my first book—and therein lies the problem. The previous sentence is written in passive voice. I should have simply said, “I loved my first book.” I rewrote Code Name: Evangeline at least eight times. But even when I finally published it, I didn’t realize how passively it’s written. I may go back some day and try to rewrite it, by why go backward when I can go forward?
Let the reader fill in the blanks.
My early books contained too much extraneous detail that didn’t move the story forward. I like to think of that technique as: laundry lists of action. I thought it added validity to the story and showed I paid attention to every detail. I didn’t give the reader credit for having an imagination. You don’t have to include the boring stuff a character does to get from A to B. It will be easier for you and more exciting for the readers to just include the dialogue and action that moves the story forward.
Don’t start your book with a backstory dump.
There may be a lot you want the reader to know so they’ll understand the plot and characters in your novel, but let those facts emerge gradually. Backstory takes the reader backward; your goal should be to move your story forward. If there is information the character needs the reader to know, there are subtle ways to weave backstory into your novel.
- Use dialogue. The protagonist might reveal a line or two about his past when answering another character’s question.
- Flashbacks, used sparingly, can help reveal necessary information. I often refer to flashbacks as roadblocks in the flow of the storyline, but I use them if I need them. I used them more in my earlier books. I’m trying to wean myself away from using them at all.
- A character can have an inner dialogue with himself about why he’s reluctant or avid to do something. It could be triggered by an event, or a smell, or something he hears like a word or a song. What am I thinking. People who talk to themselves are crazy.
- Dramatize a character flaw or strength. Have the character resist walking out on a balcony to show a fear of heights, rather than writing two pages of backstory about how he almost fell off the roof when he was ten. Or show him acting tenderly, blandly, agressively toward a person or animal to highlight a trait of his personality. Dramatizing a flaw also falls under the category show, don’t tell.
I eventually cut the first 40 pages of my first book. It took me a while to realize the backstory ruined the flow of action.
Learn from your mistakes.
No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s what we learn from our mistakes that helps us become better writers.
About Third Chronicles of Illumination
Third Chronicles of Illumination
by C.A. Pack
Publisher: Artiqua Press
Publication Date: February 7th 2017
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Oh, no! Johanna Charette and Jackson Roth have allowed a sneaky shapeshifter to slip right through their fingers. The good news is that he’s now trapped between the layers of time and space with their Terrorian nemesis, Nero 51. The bad news is the Terrorian wants to control all the Libraries of Illumination, while the shapeshifter wants to control everything else. Who knows how long the Illumini system will remain safe? It’s taking a toll on Johanna and Jackson, who are smack in the center of everything as they struggle to protect the libraries’ legacy. Can you spell s-t-r-e-s-s? The pressure is driving a stake between the teens, and their mercurial romance could be over before it has truly begun.
About the Author
A. Packis the author of the Library of Illuminationseries of YA paranormal fantasy novelettes, along with Chronicles: The Library of Illumination (2014), The Second Chronicles of Illumination (2015) and The Third Chronicles of Illumination (2017).
Pack also writes for a general audience. Her first novel, Code Name: Evangeline—is an historical spy thriller which takes place in the 1930’s. The author followed it up with Evangeline’s Ghost—a fantasy about the death of that same spy. She recently completed work on Evangeline’s Ghost: Houdini, and is currently working on Evangeline’s Ghost: The Bridge.
Pack is an award winning journalist from New York who worked as an anchor/reporter and educator (she considers herself the fairy-godmother of telvision news reporters)—and has written for WNBC, LI News Tonight and News 12 Long Island. She also worked on PBS documentaries, radio and television commercials and created and produced a pilot for a news show focusing solely on marriage and wedding trends.
She’s a past president of the Press Club of Long Island and a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. Pack has been a speaker or panelist for organizations such as Women in Communications, Fair Media Council, and the Society of Professional Journalists.
The author lives with her husband and two picky parrots “on” Long Island, New York.