L.A. Kennedy

Beyond the story

by Amanda Patterson

If you want to write legal thrillers, don’t miss this post: John Grisham’s 8 Do’s and Don’ts For Popular Fiction.

John Grisham is an American author who is best known for his legal thrillers. He was born 8 February 1955.

Before writing full time, John Grisham practised criminal law and served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi.

He has sold more than 250 million books, which have been translated into 29 languages. Many of his novels have been filmed including: The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Runaway Jury, and A Time to Kill.

Here is his advice for authors of popular fiction.

John Grisham’s 8 Do’s And Don’ts For Popular Fiction

1.   Do — Write A Page Every Day

That’s about 200 words, or 1,000 words a week. Do that for two years and you’ll have a novel that’s long enough. Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.

2.   Don’t — Write The First Scene Until You Know The Last

This necessitates the use of a dreaded device commonly called an outline. Virtually all writers hate that word. I have yet to meet onewho admits to using an outline.

Plotting takes careful planning. Writers waste years pursuing stories that eventually don’t work.

3.   Do — Write Your One Page Each Day At The Same Place And Time

Early morning, lunch break, on the train, late at night — it doesn’t matter. Find the extra hour, go to the same place, shut the door. No exceptions, no excuses.

4.   Don’t — Write A Prologue

Prologues are usually gimmicks to hook the reader. Avoid them. Plan your story (see No. 2) and start with Chapter 1.

5.   Do — Use Quotation Marks With Dialogue

Please do this. It’s rather basic.

6.   Don’t — Keep A Thesaurus Within Reaching Distance

I know, I know, there’s one at your fingertips.

There are three types of words: (1) words we know; (2) words we should know; (3) words nobody knows. Forget those in the third category and use restraint with those in the second.

A common mistake by fledgling authors is using jaw-breaking vocabulary. It’s frustrating and phoney.

7.   Do — Read Each Sentence At Least Three Times In Search Of Words To Cut

Most writers use too many words, and why not? We have unlimited space and few constraints.

8.   Don’t — Introduce 20 Characters In The First Chapter

Another rookie mistake. Your readers are eager to get started. Don’t bombard them with a barrage of names from four generations of the same family. Five names are enough to get started.

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