Monday, January 9, 2012

A Light To Guide Me

At same stage in the distant past I worked out a very important truth about writing, something that has helped me on numerous occasions and just this evening came to my assistance yet again. The truth is this:

If you're bored writing something, people will be bored reading it.

I wrote a lot of stories when I was a teenager, but I hardly finished any. The reason was that I always got bogged down in the opening pages trying to set up the world. I would give the back-story on both the setting and the characters, the preamble about how such and such a person ended up where they were at the beginning of the book, and so on. By the time I'd scribbled my way through five pages, I was so fed-up with the whole thing I never wanted to see it again. I was bored, and had I been cruel enough to subject a reader to my efforts, they would have been bored too. 100 percent guaranteed.

Now I'm older and grayer I know you should never worry about back-story, but instead start with action and weave in the background later. Grab your reader's interest early and never let it go. Still, tonight, while I was banging out the first draft of Jeweller of Rassylon, I found myself sinking into that familiar sensation of tedium, as if my fingers were made of lead on the keys. And the reason? I'd moved from a section of action to a section where the next bit of action is set up. Dillen moves from A to B. He sits down. He thinks about this and that. He looks to see what's around him. He thinks some more. So boring I can hardly repeat it here for fear of nodding off.

Thankfully, I had my rule to guide me. I ditched 500 words of Dillen thinking and sitting and looking, and replaced it with about four sentences of essential set-up, linking action scene A with action scene B. And you know what? It was fun to write, and I'm pretty sure it will be a lot more fun for the reader to read too.


  1. I can't wait to read both, Peter. The picture above is adorable.

  2. Thanks Ladonna. Isn't it a great pic? Just the expression I was after :-)