Welcome back to this week’s special guest series by professional beta readers Annette Abernathy and Allison Conley of BetaWitches.com. They’re offering writing tricks and providing advice on how to sell your finished book. In the last post, the beta readers talk about their top tips for new authors.
Content Note: One of the tips shared is about writing intimate scenes between adults, so best not to read at work or around the children!
Allison Conley and Annette Abernathy share some of the most blatant, consistent problems their clients tend to have.
Annette: The story begins with the first sentence. That means the first sentence has to grab the reader. People have short attention spans these days, so give them that powerful, compelling reason to invest in your story.
Allison: The most fundamental part to writing a book is the characters! No matter who they are or what they do the reader has to empathize with them. A bad plot filled with holes can be forgiven with great characters. Characters are the glue that holds the book together.
Annette: Each action of the character’s story has to build towards character growth. Don’t have a character, especially the MC, be a vegan all through the book and then she suddenly eats meat just to try it on page 100. There has to be a compelling reason why a character does anything.
Allison: This is so important! Make sure that the character has the same personality all through the story. It doesn’t make sense to have a quiet person be an introvert halfway through the book. That makes the character come across as bipolar and shows that the writer has a terrible command of the story. How is the reader going to root for the character if they are all over the place?
Allison: Also, remember that this is a book, a medium that highlights the most exciting parts of your characters. It’s not a documentary of someone’s life. Even nonfiction books don’t tell everything that’s not essential to the characters development or plot. Use the benefits of the medium to your advantage when writing your book.
Annette: Good writing can take character inconsistencies and make them a major plot point, though. Your MC may have to eat meat on page 100 or starve. That scene could add pivotal character insight that furthers the plot and the readers renewed interest in the book.
Annette: Speaking of plot points one of the most exciting plot developments in a book is a sex scene. I’ve learned from my readers that just having sex doesn’t mean a person can write a sex scene well. I can’t go into this subject too deep here, but the basics to a sex scene are:
1. Give the couple chemistry from the start.
2. Know audience expectations. I you’re writing a traditional romance don’t have the man stalk or rape the woman and have her thinks it’s passion. That’s not sexy. It’s very sick. Also write a man that a real woman would be attracted to.
3. Write the scene like real sex. I once read an intimate scene that lasted ten pages because the characters had to discuss everything before it happened, although nothing actually happened. Real sex is breathy and in the moment and no one is going to stop for a play by play! Women release oxytocin in their brains that make them want to be close to the man more during an orgasm. Men release vasopressin that makes them feel more responsible for the woman during orgasm. Know what the body does during sex and use that to make the act more real and passionate. It takes skill to make sex boring. The word sex alone makes parts of the brain react, but there seems to be a lot of writers with this skill.
Allison: When you write really intense scenes make sure there is that perfect balance of detail (invoke the senses with mood and visualization) and succinct prose to move the action along. Make it as if the action is happening in real life for the reader.
Annette: Yes! Please take that last point to heart. If you can make a reader see the story and characters while they are reading they will continue to read your book. After they finish that book they’ll yearn for more. Good TV does this, and we are living in a time where mediums are blending. The most popular TV shows have movie qualities (high caliber writing, excellent acting, stunning visuals, and real soundtracks). Movies are now series. Books are being made into movies and series more and more each year. Write your story so it can be a movie series, a TV show, and a book series all in one.
Allison: Writing a book that can stand alone is the best way to go about what Annette said. If you have a detailed, compelling novel it’ll be easier to turn it into other mediums. Think about this from the beginning of your writing process. People always say that the book is better.
Annette: Great point. A book is like a website while movies and TV series are social media. People always want the book (and the website) to be the home base of the story. So make sure that your book is a welcoming home for the reader. That means really putting the work into making it great.
We know that this is a lot of information and probably feels like an info dump, but you can put them into practice on your work in progress bit by bit and once you intuitively get this you’ll be farther ahead than the majority of writers.
Allison Conley has a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a minor in Sociology. She finished the Seeding Entrepreneurs Across the Midsouth (S.E.A.M) program in 2016 for her work as an entrepreneur and artist in the greater Memphis Tennessee Area.
Annette Abernathy has a B.A. in psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies, and a professional certificate in photography with a background in visual storytelling.