…Seven Swans A-Swimming, and there is no prettier sight than one of them gliding along the water towards you. Their passage is elegant and effortless – you never see their black feet beneath the surface, hammering against the current.

It’s the same with writing: your story should wash over your reader, your prose eddying, your characters making headway against the ebb and flow of your plot. Enough of the extended water metaphor, already! The point is that your reader shouldn’t be aware of any of the effort you’ve put in. If they are conscious of all your hard work, it suggests that you are either showing off or asking for thanks and neither is good.
Some of the invisible graft that you should be doing includes:

  • Researching your story – make sure that you visit any real location which features in your work and that you take plenty of pictures. If you are setting your book in the past, read everything you can about the period you have chosen. It won’t do any harm to read books by other writers that cover similar ground to you, either.
  • Getting to know your characters – they should never be far from your thoughts. Becoming acquainted with your hero or heroine is a bit like falling in love, you should be filled with a craving for more and more information about them. Make notes if it helps you; think about their past lives, their tastes, their ambitions, their aversions, their strengths and weaknesses. Be consumed by them.
  • Planning your plot in enough detail to avoid you having to make expedient additions to it at the last moment because you haven’t thought things through properly.
  • Being clear about the themes of your story – remember that the plot is there to help you explore a wider world view; if it only exists as a thing in itself, your book will your book will be less satisfying.
  • Editing your work – when you think you have cut every extraneous phrase that you possibly can, cut another ten percent so that you polish your prose until it sparkles.

These are some of the ways in which you can support your inspiration, the black feet hard at work beneath the surface, so that your story floats free.

I hope that 2013 challenges and rewards your creativity – Happy New Year !