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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kim Wilkins' Top Writing Tips

In the past 15 years Kim Wilkins has written 21 novels, including supernatural thrillers, horror, fantasy, books for young adults, books for children and, in recent years, contemporary epic romances. Her books are published in a dozen countries. She teaches at the University of Queensland in the postgraduate writing program, and at the Queensland Writer's Centre, and also mentors emerging writers, some of whom have gone on to brilliant success. 

Kim has also won a shelf full of awards including multiple Aurealis Awards for her speculative fiction, a Romantic Book of the Year award, plus awards for Teaching Excellence, Research Excellence, and Criticism/Review. Topping it off, Kim's latest book, Wildflower Hill, recently made the USA Today bestseller list, so when she talks about writing, it's a good idea to listen.

These are my top quick writing tips of all time that I think every writer should know. They represent, of course, my opinions, but I think you'll find I'm always right. ;)

  • Look to your verbs. If you read a page back and it seems lifeless and flabby, find every verb on the page and see if you can improve it. Make a point of collecting great verbs every time you read or watch a movie or have a conversation. Verbs like gasp, surge, quiver, and drench work so hard. Verbs are the muscle of a sentence, and can punch up dull writing in a moment.
  • Chillax on chapter one. Easily the most common writing problem I see is the writer trying far too hard to impress in the first few pages of a story. Many stories warm up and get fantastic after page five, but by then the publisher has already put you on the "reject" pile. Often your first chapter is so overworked that it's uncomfortable to read. My advice is to finish the book, then scrap the first chapter all together and write it again without looking at the original.
  • Don't write all your fun scenes first. Write in order. If you give a child her custard first, she's probably not going to be all that interested in her Brussels sprouts.
  • Be in a viewpoint, always. At the start of every scene make sure you know exactly whose viewpoint you are going to be in, and write the scene from inside their head. A story details a relationship between characters and events. The most impact is always achieved from describing that relationship from the inside.
  • Plan your story in advance, even if it's only loosely. It will save you so much time and heartache and, contrary to popular belief, it's actually MORE fun to do it this way. When you know that an exciting turning point is approaching, the scene and the ones around it can play out in your mind over and over as you think them through, becoming richer the more you anticipate it.
  • Most important of all: keep going. This is a tough craft, and it's an even tougher business. Dream big if you want, but your dreams can't sustain you on a day-to-day basis. The only thing that can sustain you is the work. Do it because you love it; because not to write hurts. Do it because you are mad about your story and obsessed with your characters. Don't make it another chore to fit into your busy day: make it the special place you go when your day has been rubbish. Keep going and keep going, and then keep going some more.

Thanks very much, Kim. I've made a note to work on my own flabby and under-exercised verbs. 

Kim's pictorial guide to editing: Kim's main website is here, And the Kimberley Freeman site, for Kim's epic romances, here:


Zena Shapter said...

Congratulations Ian! You have received The Versatile Blogger Award for sharing so much of your writing life, experience and knowledge with your fans. Thank you. There is some small print attached to this award, but it’s all in the name of good fun and connecting with other bloggers. Check it out here (scroll down to Update 2):

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Jacob Oram said...

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