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Seven Secrets of Writing a Page-Turner

I wasn't classically trained in creative writing as such, but I did learn a lot of lessons ‘on the job’ from my brilliant editor, Marian McCarthy, the pick of which, I've listed below. 

1. The characters have to be believable and relatable with a real sense of depth.

2. Every character has to exist for a reason – I had ‘characters galore’ in my first draft and needed to stand back and really assess who was needed to tell the story. If a character overlapped with another, it had to go! Which leads nicely into…

3. All writing is re-writing! During my first (and most memorable) re-write, I had to merge the first four chapters and cull several characters – because the pace was too slow and the characters not working hard enough for their place in the story (30,000 words worth!).

4. Pacing – keep it moving along swiftly and don’t get bogged down in too much detail, while genuinely making people care about the characters and their futures. Quite a tricky thing to achieve.

5. Keep the dialogue distinctive and fresh.

6. I always like to end a chapter with an open-ended ‘nugget of information’ or ‘hook’ to make the reader want to keep reading.

7. Less is more – as my editor, Marian, likes to say, “tighten, tighten, tighten!”. Print off your work and edit words from sentences and see how much better it reads. Reading your work out loud helps with this. (It’s so annoying, but it always works!)

Novelist Emma Bowd, whose The Shoe Princess’s Guide to the Galaxy is published by Bloomsbury, knows a thing or two about life, love and shoes (see her Shoe Princess blog!) – and writing the perfect page-turner.

If you found this article useful then you might like to try: 

Countdown to keep your novel pacey

Pacing your plot

Discover the art of the rewrite