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When to Put Your Best Writing Forward

photo adapted / Horia Varlan

Put your very best writing on the first page of your manuscript, I was once told, and the rest will rise to the challenge. This is a good thing, because your very best writing belongs on every other page, as well.

In fact, today I want to convince you why your very best writing belongs everywhere.

Synopsis

Most writers consider it a necessary evil, so why spend more time on it than you have to? Here’s why: if you treat it as a precious piece of storytelling, you might sell your book. Or a movie option. Infuse your synopsis with voice and drama and character. Make the reader feel something. Such synopses are out there, writers, and yours may be competing with them.

Website

Think of visitors to your site as browsers in your personal store. You wouldn’t want to leave punctuation and spelling errors lying around for them to stumble over, would you? Your customers are already hindered by having no beautifully designed book to pick up and flip through. Make your graphics and digital copy pop off the page to shake your reader’s hand in a way that says, “I am a competent, confident writer that you can trust for your entertainment needs.”

Blog posts

Blog posts have come a long way since those first steam-of-consciousness missives by “iamawriter” in the 1990s, when capitalization and correct spelling were optional. These days it couldn’t be more different. In 2014, while promoting my first novel, I was surprised at the hoops my publicist sent me through just to come up with original content for book bloggers. She vetted all posts and sent them back with comments like “you can write a stronger opening.” And I could.

This was my first stab at an opening for As I Turn the Pages in answer to the question, “How has dance impacted your life?”

I was an active child with an unquenchable thirst for rhythmic physical endeavor. When my nose wasn’t in a novel I was playing hopscotch and jump rope, skiing (snow and water), diving, taking gymnastics, and cheerleading. But nothing set me aflame like the dance class I discovered when I was sixteen.

Second try:

I leapt into the world feet first and ready for action. When my nose wasn’t in a novel I was skipping across chalked patterns, diving from springboards, slicing hills with my skis, flipping over high jumps—then trying to do any or all of it on the balance beam. But nothing set me aflame like the dance class I discovered when I was sixteen.

Pro tip: Even if the point of your post is to interview another author, fashioning your questions so they elicit a story arc represents your own abilities as a novelist better than five random questions.

Social media comments

You may not realize the impact you make with the comments you leave on other people’s social media posts. The Tall Poppy marketing cooperative has a Facebook group with more than seven thousand members, and yet I have gotten to know certain commenters because I relate to what they say. A few of them are aspiring novelists. I’ll be on the lookout when they publish. You’ve no doubt made similar impressions right here in the comments at Writer UnBoxed. Since you are bothering to comment, and readers will be forming judgments anyway, why not step beyond “Great post!” to reveal a little something about you?

Author bio

From the lengthy bio you place for gads of readers at Amazon Central to the one-liner placed at end of magazine articles, your bio can offer an exercise in contextualizing info dump with story. Here’s one I salivate over, from author Ann Garvin:

Ann Garvin is a nurse, a professor, and a professional loser of keys. Dogs think she is amazing, and the feeling is mutual. Ann writes about women who have a good sense of humor about doing too much in a world that asks too much of them. She thought writing a book would get her a beach house. The beach house hasn’t happened yet, but she’s bought sunglasses, so she’s ready. She created the Tall Poppies because she loves writers, readers, and helping women get their voices heard. Ann is the author of ON MAGGIE’S WATCH, THE DOG YEAR, and the USA Today bestseller I LIKE YOU JUST FINE WHEN YOU’RE NOT AROUND.

Book reviews

Readers can get to know your writing through the books you love and how you write about them at sites like Goodreads or Litsy. Rather than sprinkle stars and say “really enjoyed this”—which means little, since we don’t know your taste—why not capitalize on this opportunity by crafting a few sentences that are specific to your point of view?

Presentation blurbs

Appearing at conferences won’t help you sell your book if no one comes to your session. Entice conferees with snappy prose that illustrates why they need the information you’re offering. If they see that you understand their needs in the grand ballroom, they are more likely to seek out you out at the book fair.

Emails and newsletters

I once declined agent representation (the nerve!) because while developing my novel during a trial relationship, every one of her emails was riddled with spelling errors. Could an agent be declining you for the same reason? Take your time. Proofread. You don’t want your flying fingers to dick the wrong letter and make a joke of your efforts.

Bottom line: If you seek life as an author, your writing game is “on.” Your writing is no longer a simple form of communication, but the assistant that opens the door to all opportunity. Seduce. Captivate. Beguile. Leave behind captivating stories wherever you go.

What would you add to this list? Where else have you noticed a missed opportunity for an author to put their best foot forward? Where else have you had additional or unusual opportunity to showcase your writing chops? When have additional drafts of effort netted a reward? Take a chance—reveal something about yourself in your comment!

 

About Kathryn Craft

Kathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks, The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. Her work as a freelance developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she leads writing workshops and retreats, and is a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. Learn more on Kathryn’s website.


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.