Great writing: what's the secret sauce?
What makes writing so compelling that people can't stop reading?
This week, at Island Mountain Arts Writing Workshop in Wells, BC, I've shared what I've learned in my lifetime of writing and in the last 5 years as editor of The Vancouver Observer, a city news site that has had more than 600 community contributors.
I've been talking about the secret sauce that makes good writing great.
A quote from the late, Nobel Peace Prize-winning author, Isaac Beshevis Singer, sums it up for me:
"The very essence of literature is the war between emotion and intellect, between life and death. When literature becomes too intellectual – when it begins to ignore the passions, the emotions – it becomes sterile, silly, and actually without substance."
He's talking about literature, but the same's true for nonfiction, reporting, even tweeting or writing a Facebook update: tell a good story and touch your readers.
A few tips I've shared with the participants in my workshop this week:
• Hook your reader with a killer first sentence
• Create surprise and suspense
• Show, don't tell
• Put most dramatic moment of the story at beginning
• Take your story through at least 4 drafts before showing publishing
• Read it out loud to figure out what works and what doesn't
• Don't kid yourself it's finished when it's not. Great writing takes great effort.
Tell a good story and your writing will be shared widely by those whose hearts and minds you touch.