The Diamond-Buyer’s Guide to Writing a Literary Gem

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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.”

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About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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24 Comments

  1. That was another excellent post today. You make it look so easy. Thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a wonderful day!

    [UNAUTHORIZED LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

  2. Another little gem from Steph!

  3. I came across today thinking that I’d scan through your site looking for some tips for editing my (long) short stories a la 23 ways to be productive and – lo and behold! – first article! Thanks Steph!

    Also, how do I get rid of old mate’s links? I’ve just been marking him as SPAM…

    • Woohoo! It’s destiny! …I mean, glad I could help. : )

      I took out that link by editing the comment. It’s just a couple over from the ‘Approve’ and ‘Reply’ buttons when you access comments through your dashboard.

  4. Great post! Definitely going to bookmark to read again when I get farther into my WIP!

  5. “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.”

    ewww… but you are perfectly right.

    • It’s okay. Word vomit just smells like wet paper. It IS hard to clean up though. Takes lots of red ink.

      • Bleh.

        By the way… do you know any good ghost stories? I am missing something in the narrator’s voice of my W.I.P. and I think it may lie in that direction.

        • Hmmm. I don’t read a lot of ghost stories. A Christmas Carol? Ummm…Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury (I haven’t actually read that one). James P. Blaylock’s The Elfin Ship and The Disappearing Dwarf both have a lot of walking skeletons and headless boatmen and things, but they aren’t really scary – they are charming little steampunk adventures with cheese and pickles and ridiculous dialogue. I tried to read John Dies at the End, which is all about paranormal, etc., but it was far too crass for me. Maybe Frank Peretti’s Piercing the Darkness / This Present Darkness (also haven’t read, though they’re on my list).

          • I am definitely not looking for “scary” or crass. I don’t like reading horror, and have no intention of writing it. In fact, a very few ghost stories seem to have what I am looking for, which makes my search harder. If other genres have it, which is possible, that would be helpful too.
            As I told a friend, I am looking for that faint chill you get sometimes while on a lonely road. That possibility that reality is neither as solid nor as safe as we like to think. It isn’t an unpleasant feeling, but not a safe one, either.
            The Listeners, by Walter de la Mare was probably my first literary encounter with the feeling. http://www.poetry-archive.com/m/the_listeners.html
            I will poke around your suggestions, though. Even a “miss” helps me, by showing me what I am not aiming for!
            There’s a fine balance between the right tone, and becoming ridiculously Gothic, which would be horrible! 😉

          • Hmm. That reminds me of a lot of movies and Doctor Who episodes, but I don’t suppose those will help. I suspect you’ll have the best luck with Bradbury, of the suggestions I gave you.

          • Though I am looking, specifically, for prose in order to see how other writers have conjured this mood, visual media helps too. Movies and such help me find its threads and its edges, so to speak.

          • Then I suggest Doctor Who! I think the episodes are available on Netflix Instant…definitely in disc form.

  6. Any in particular? I’ve watched only a little of the old show, and most of the new, though I have fallen off a bit this last season.

  7. Pingback: Why Prose is like a Diamond | elmowrites

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