Today’s guest is Waldenbooks bestselling author Lauren Nichols, who shares what “writing beautifully” means to her. Lauren is a romantic suspense novelist with ten published novels and dozens of romance, mystery, and science-fiction short stories placed in national magazines.
She writes below about creating “a place-in-time” a reader won’t want to leave. Her fictional town of Charity, set in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny mountains, is that kind of place. It is within this picturesque town that Lauren has created a series of taut and touching tales for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense.
Read on to learn how Lauren approaches her work in terms of writing beautifully…
Quite a few years ago, long before I was published, I attended a writing workshop given by a wonderful writer and friend, Nancy Martin. As always, Nancy was full of great tips for unpubs who were hoping to make the leap to published, but one particular piece of advice she shared that day stuck in my head: Learn to write beautifully. This is now my mantra.
What is “writing beautifully?” In my mind it’s taking the time to make your words and phrases sing. I’m not talking about agonizing over every word you write; that takes too long and the most important thing for a writer to do is finish his or her story. I’m talking about taking some time in the revision stage to care about the words you’ve used.
You’ve undoubtedly heard or read this before, but it’s imperative that we use strong verbs, cliche-free phrases, snappy dialogue and great descriptions–whether they’re lovely and pastoral, or dark and riddled with tension. This, in my opinion, separates great writers from good storytellers. Yes, the story is the most important thing. If you don’t tell a good, fast-paced tale, you’re not going to sell. But if your book doesn’t wow ‘em in some way, you won’t be remembered.
One of the first romance novels I ever read grabbed my attention instantly with the first line. The book was NIGHTWAY by Janet Daily (1981) and it opened with this description: “The land stretched out as far as the imagination, laced with arroyos, crowned with mesas and buttes.”
Boom. I was there. But I was there with just a couple of beautiful words. I’m not recommending this book, and I’m not saying that this is the best description I’ve ever read, but it was the first one that packed a punch for me and opened my eyes to the beauty of words and phrases.
Personal preferences being what they are, I won’t suggest a long list of writers who–in my opinion–write beautifully. You know which authors do it for you. They’re the people who make you smile or gasp, or make you cringe when trouble’s on the way. They’re the writers whose books you can’t put down because they’ve created a place-in-time that you don’t want to leave–writers who’ve taken you away from the ho-hum sameness of everyday life and dropped you into a thrilling fantasy. Take some time to look at the words they’ve chosen to catapult you to that wonderful place.
In a struggling economy, the reader who once picked up two or three books at a time might have to cut back on purchases to put bread and milk on the table. Whose book will he or she choose? Look around. There are a lot of books on the shelves. Now more than ever, our work has to stand out from the crowd and get readers talking and recommending us to others. Tone and texture can’t save a poorly paced book or one without compelling characters and a great plot. But it can absolutely make reading a deliciously satisfying experience. And isn’t that what brings readers back for more?
Thanks for joining in the summer fun!