The Mechanics of Good Writing: Training Your Eye Can Increase Your Chances of Literary Success

I was pleased to learn that a recent client of mine, J. D. Shiner, author of the gripping thriller, Caves of Corihor, was being interviewed about his decision to become a full-time author. He published his first book just two months ago after working tirelessly to produce it. Already it has received reviews you might expect to see on a bestselling author’s Amazon page.

“The gripping story took me around the world, and I was enthralled by the story line and the characters,” wrote one reviewer. “Every page holds my attention,” wrote another. “Loved the intensity of this book...never stopping, edge-of-your-seat type of action.” The accolades continue, and I am certain that they will continue for quite some time.

As an editor, it certainly brings me a sense of accomplishment to know that people are enjoying his work. But what is the secret to his success? One of them is certainly his attention to detail, something about which many reviewers have commented. But another is his willingness to study the writing of bestselling authors to determine critical aspects of storytelling—the mechanics of good writing. These involve (1) understanding the importance of timing and the general pace of good writing; (2) determining the best way to develop characters and plots, and (3) studying the formats of writing that keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Shiner reveals in the interview that he is a longtime fan of Stephen King novels. He took it upon himself to learn more about how King works on his creative process. Among the tools that have helped Shiner craft his novels are “a commitment to read a lot and write a lot,” sound advice from one of the most popular thriller authors in history.

While reading great fiction, it is helpful to look at the writing from different perspectives. Writers may be accustomed to relating to other writers in a certain way. If you have a favorite author, you might want to do our best to emulate that author’s style; in fact, it may be one of the reasons why you took up writing in the first place. But it’s also critically important to learn more about the mechanics of good writing, something that may not be apparent when you are merely reading novels for pleasure. By examining these works with a critical eye, you can have a greater chance of impacting the lives of your readers, creating a following, and racking up reviews that make potential customers curious and willing to buy.

This is the subject of a new book I have recently published. In The First Three Chapters: How to Impress an Agent with your Knowledge of the Mechanics of Good Writing, I explore some of the techniques bestselling authors use to grab a reader’s attention—something that many new authors neglect. Authors are accustomed to honing in on the creative elements of story building, paying far less attention to the structural elements. To many authors, this may show up as a blind spot. However, to be successful as an independently published author, or one seeking a literary agent, a basic knowledge of the mechanics of good writing is imperative. By training your eye and asking the right questions, you, much like J. D. Shiner, can increase your chances of literary success.

To learn more about how to become a master at the mechanics of writing, check out The First Three Chapters.