Blog Entry

I try to be selective in the blogs I follow and one that consistently has good info. is There Are No Rules, Jane Friedman’s blog for Writer’s Digest.  Today’s is byhistorical novelist guest writer Sara Sheridan and it’s on narrative writing, which, of course, includes NF.  Below is an excerpt.

1. Think of your story as a storyboard, like a comic or graphic novel.
Run through it action by action. Anything in your text that isn’t part of the storyboard simply isn’t pacey enough.

If you have pages and pages of description, you’re asking a lot of your reader. They won’t stick with you. But give them something to see happening, and they’ll stay up all night with your book.

The storyboard technique is a great way to check that your story is balanced. It stops you from getting carried away by nice writing style or an interesting character. It forces you to focus on the bricks and mortar of your story, with the voice stripped away. No adjectives are allowed in this process. You may have to be brutal, but it will become clear what does and doesn’t push the narrative forward.

2. Consider the tone of the narrative voice of your story.
What vocabulary have you used? Ornate language can distract a reader or evoke a particular place or time, so it’s a tightrope of which you have to be aware. Also, what is the balance between prose and dialogue?

To assess this, read chapter endings in isolation to check that the narrative voice is compelling. That might sound odd. After all, no one is going to only read the endings of your chapters. But this is a great way to get a sense of the narrative voice of the whole book.

First, it lets you see your writing out of context. Distracted by the story you might not notice repetition of a word, a distracting complexity of language or an imbalance between prose and dialogue. Taken in isolation (only a paragraph or two), you can focus on the writing.

Second, at the end of chapters, you are seeing your writing at its compelling best. Writers naturally make their chapter endings pacey—if you’re not urging the reader to read on at that point, you’re not doing your job!

3. The easiest way to improve narrative drive is to simplify your verbs as much as possible.
In English we have a huge amount of tense formations and a high proportion of irregular verbs. It’s astoundingly easy to use three or four words where one will do. Keep it simple—make every word count. Stick to the simple present, past, and future where possible. If you can write in the present tense your prose will have especial immediacy.

See anything you could do to improve your writing.  I sure do!

There’s more, if you want to check the entire post out.


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3 Responses to Blog Entry

  1. ediehemingway says:

    Thanks for this practical topic! We can all use more reminders of how to improve our narrative voices.

  2. Sarah Maury Swan says:

    Thanks Mary. Those are good suggestions and, yes, I would like to read the whole post. Can you provide us with the URL? Thanks again, Sarah.

  3. Hi, Sarah. The title of the blog in the first line is actually a link. I just checked to be sure it worked and it does, but you have to scroll past a very looo-oo-ong post today to get to the Aug. 17 post of Sara’s. Keep scrolling! It’s worth the effort.


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