General Writing Tips [3] - Do's and Dont's

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This column will get expanded after every contest

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This column will get expanded after every contest. It contains our findings and feedback, to help you improve your writing skills. After each contest, we'll update with issues we saw - or things we LIKED, so make sure to check this out. Without further ado, here it comes.

DO's

1 - By all means, use the THREE_ACT-STRUCTURE, it made a huge difference to the quality of the stories!

2 - When using DESCRIPTIONS, be sure to use ALL senses. A lot of you rely on the visuals. The story that won the "Descriptiveness" contest featured somebody locked in the dark. That made for a heck of a read. Now, you don't all have to run and base your stories in unlit rooms. Just be aware there are more senses that can draw your readers in. Touch, Taste, Hearing, Smell. To elegantly weave ALL of them into a story makes for the best reader experience. You want them to be THERE. That means you need to have them breathe in the stink of a dead body, touch the rough wall until they suddenly hit something wet, something sticky .... And suddenly there is a soft hush of breath behind your character, something that wasn't there before. Moving her hair, raising little goosebumps on her bare arms... Okay, that sort of thing right?

3- Edit. Please edit your stories. We won't throw the grammar book at you, but if there are too many tense slips, commas gone AWOL (or wild), spelling blitzing all over the place, then we will have to mark you down. Go through, give it your best shot and you're fine. Tip: Write your story and let it marinate for a day. Then go back to it and check once more. You'll find more bloopers that way.


DON'Ts

1 - STORY QUESTION: Answering the story question is important. Without that, you don't get closure. But if your story question is "Was this person murdered?" then you cannot just end on pointing out that, yes, it was murder. You need CONTEXT. You need to give us the why and how and who. Especially readers of mystery want to know exactly what happened, why it happened - and whether they have guessed it right. So you need to satisfy this reader curiosity on top of answering your question. Very often, there is more than one question. You have a big one "Was it murder or not?" And that leads to other questions "Who was the murderer? Why did he/she commit the crime? (motive) What exactly did he/she do and how?" Don't forget those, or you have some rather peeved readers. Or judges.... XD

2 - OVER DESCRIPTIVENESS: Just as a lack of description can conflict with reader immersion, over descriptiveness (also known as purple pose) can distract, or even overpower the plot. Balance is the key. You want the reader to be there, but you don't want to smother him with rampant or abstruse sentence constructs. Keep your setting and narrator in mind. A younger narrator expresses himself differently than a seasoned detective with years of experience.

3 - MISS THE PROMPT: If you do that, you're in trouble. Sorry. We plan our contests very carefully and if we say we want you to write a mystery then please don't give us a vampire love story. Read the contest description carefully and , if in doubt, ask. We'll always answer. But we have had a couple of cases where we got really cool entries - but we had to mark them down because of missed prompts. Don't let that be you!



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