When determining the value of a diamond, gemologists look at four factors, collectively known as the Four Cs. By a convenient coincidence, all four coincide with important points of writing. So here are a few pointers on writing a novel that shines.
Carat – the size or weight of the diamond.
Do your plot and characters have enough weight to carry the story? Does enough happen to your hero, not just physically, but emotionally, that the story is worth writing and worth reading? If so, proceed. If not, it isn’t worth the cost. Dig deeper.
Clarity – how many inclusions (little black dots) are in the diamond.
Unclear wording slows down your reader – and thus the story, and keeps the light from shining through. Bummer. Look back at 47 ways to find and eliminate inclusions in your writing.
Cut – If a diamond is cut too long, the light will bounce sideways off the lower facets. Too short, and the light just falls through. But just right, a la Goldilocks, and the light reflects off the lower facets directly into the eyes for optimum sparkle.
Just so with editing. “They” say to cut anything that is not necessary to the plot. But a novel cannot live on plot alone. Character is just as important. Check every scene to ensure it contains two or more of the following elements:
- Establishing character
- Advancing plot
- Foreshadowing events
- Braiding in subplots
If you find a scene that doesn’t have two or more elements—and you can’t manage to work a second element in—cut it. If there was anything important in that scene, extract it and work it into another existing scene.
Color – the purer white it is, the more iridescent the shine.
In writing, that pure whiteness is honesty. Yes, you are writing about made-up people in made-up situations, but you still must be emotionally honest. About how you see the world. About what keeps you up at night. What you fear. What you long for. What hurts most. And why you keep on fighting. When you’re writing that first draft, don’t try to be eloquent. Don’t try to impress your readers. Don’t preach at them. Just climb into the head of the character who’s telling the story. Then reach into your gut and vomit your feelings on the paper. The worst and the best.
That’s when the precious gem emerges; when you’re not trying to create a feeling, but to express one. As Ray Bradbury says, “when a man talks from his heart, in his moment of truth, he speaks poetry.”