While researching The Trellis Method, I came across notable examples of timeless writing principles of craft and patterns.
My research focused on those writing principles praised by readers. Then I dug deep into what set these top writers* apart from others. I looked for how everyday writers could become bestselling authors.
As suspected, these top authors were students of writing craft and they focused relentlessly on pleasing readers with familiar patterns.
Make Your Soul Grow
At age 84, and six months before his death in 2007, Kurt Vonnegut received a letter from students who attended Xavier High School in New York City.
The student’s English teacher, Ms. Lockwood, had given them an assignment to send a persuasive letter to an admired author. Five chose Vonnegut. Although Vonnegut could not visit the students, he responded with an encouraging principle.
Here’s an excerpt from his letter** dated November 5, 2006.
Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Writing Principles: Craft
I’ve combined and summarized top writers’ attitudes and practices in a format you can apply to your writing.
- CRAFT: Adopt, adapt, and practice the writing skills and techniques praised by readers.
- WHY: Understand why you write and turn that insight into your steadfast goal.
- GOAL: Commit fully to your writing goal (e.g., to entertain, inform, and inspire readers).
- FOCUS: Write or not write, but do nothing else except write during your writing time.
- BALANCE: Blend readers’ expectations with your creativity and the story’s structure.
- PERSISTENCE: Make these ten two-letter words come true: if it is to be, it is up to me.
- IMPROVEMENT: Keep moving forward while adopting and adapting improvement ideas.
- PATTERNS: Recognize and use successful story patterns to showcase your content.
Although I can’t promise these writing principles will turn you into a bestselling author, I’m confident they’ll go a long way toward pleasing your readers.
Writing Principles: Patterns
Top writers use time-tested story patterns.
- GENRES: Understand and apply your chosen genres in ways designed to satisfy readers.
- PREMISE: Refine the story’s premise to guide your writing strategically.
- CHARACTERS: Develop dynamic characters who satisfy readers’ craving for emotions.
- PLOT: Design visceral plots that engage characters in emotional conflicts.
- THEMES: Give readers universal themes that expand their understanding of the world.
- STRUCTURE: Enhance reader satisfaction using a familiar story structure and scene flow.
- SCENE: Craft scene flow like a short story with an ending that compels reading the next.
- CONTENT: Deliver the actual content in a style that exceeds readers’ expectations.
Most readers want the comfort of a familiar story pattern blended and spiced with the author’s creativity.
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What came through loud and clear from research was how often bestselling authors’ maintained a myopic focus on pleasing readers.
- Balanced their passion for writing with what readers want.
- Learned and practiced their writing craft to please readers.
- Refined storytelling techniques based on readers’ feedback.
Share your thoughts… and make your soul grow!
What’s included in your list of writing principles?
*My research included many authors and screenwriters, including (but not limited to) Margaret Atwood, David Baldacci, Frank L. Baum, James Scott Bell, Dan Brown, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Lee Child, Mary Higgins Clark, Ann Cleeves, Michael Connelly, William Wallace Cook (aka John Milton Edwards), Lester Dent (aka Kenneth Robeson), Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming, Neil Gaiman, Gillian Flynn, Erle Stanley Gardner, Frank Gruber, Dashiell Hammett, Robert A. Heinlein, Stephen King, Steven Konkoly, Dean Koontz, Chris Lang, Elmore Leonard, A. G. Riddle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Sidney Sheldon, Blake Snider, Mickey Spillane, Dwight V. Swain, John Truby, Kurt Vonnegut.