Sunday, October 26, 2008

Six Spooktacular Ways to Improve Your Writing

'Tis Halloween when all things go bump in the night - except your writing, of course. You certainly don't want your words to cause readers to throw your pages or book on the desk (or across the room) and depart.

How to make readers want to read more, rather than run for the hills like a mob chasing Frankenstein's monster? Here are a few tips to "Spooktacular" writing.

1 Don't dress up. Costumes are great for parties, but bad for your writing. Don't use flowery language or words with too many syllables. Keep it simple. Readers want to enjoy a story, not have to hunt for a dictionary.

2. Set the mood. Just as music can set the mood, so words can make a reader feel a part of the scene. Hook them by letting them use their senses to follow the character along in their imagination.

3. Give out treats. If your book is a mystery, don't trick or cheat your readers by making the villain someone who just pops up at the end of your story. Treat your readers with a story and clues that play fair. Write scenes that are a treat to a reader.

4. Share the fun. There are always those partygoers who choose to attend a costume party, but won't dress in costume. Welcome them anyway. Give them a prop - a scarf, mask or funny headband to wear. Do the opposite in your writing - don't depend on a prop to hold the story together. Write for fun, but write tight; delete unnecessary words or scenes. Keep moving the story forward.

5. Find your theme. Let's say you prefer to write and read mysteries, but a new story simply won't fit that framework. Don't make it. Keep your writing fresh by trying your hand at a new theme or genre. Solve a crime set in another world. Substitute your character for a new person or creature. Don't be afraid to try something new or take your writing in a whole new direction.

6. Satisfy your sweet tooth. Halloween is all about candy. Have a few favorites, but don't overdo it. The same is true with writing - we all have our favorites, the pet words that we tend to use over and over again. Strengthen your writing by using the Find feature in Word to check the number of times you've used a certain word, then see how you can replace it. There's nothing wrong with those words, but like candy, a little goes a long way.

Christine Verstraete likes Halloween and couldn’t resist adding some spooky elements to her book,
Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery. See some amazing Halloween miniatures this month at her Candid Canine blog.


  1. Christine, thanks for the Halloween treat. You've treated us to a new way of looking at our writing.

  2. Queen of Analogy strikes again! Good tips, Chris. :)


  3. That was delightful, Chris.
    I have the opposite problem about dressing up.
    I usually dress down. I struggle to get my word count up, probably because I took journalism way back in high school.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Great treat for the Trick-or-Readers, Christine. You passed on some great tips!

  5. Great advice. Yes, a little candy goes a long way. Thanks!

  6. Defintely not a trick! Good treats, Christine.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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