For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.
Today’s tip – Don’t Warm Up Your Engines
Such static or backward-looking approaches to fiction are probably lethal in a novel, and are certainly fatal in a modern short story. Readers today – and that of course includes editors who will buy or reject your work – are more impatient than ever before. They will not abide a story that begins with the author warming up his engines. If a setting needs to be described, it can be described later, after you have gotten the story started. If background must be given the reader, it can be given later, after you have intrigued him with the present action of the story.
Back in the day, classic literature didn’t have to do that. You remember the tomes you read in school that would spend page after page on backstory and description before anything remotely interesting would happen.
I used to pride myself on getting through this. It was true that the payoff at the end was usually worth the work up front.
But now I’m getting too old. I don’t have enough time left for all this. I used to always finish every book I started. Now, though, if I’m not into it within the first few pages – that’s all she wrote.