Monday, October 22, 2018

7 Rules for Compelling Writing, Talk by Jerry Jenkins


Summary of Webinar Presented by Author Jerry Jenkins
8 p.m. EDT, 22 October 2018

21-times NYT best-selling author, hundreds of book titles. Sold many millions of copies. Learned these rules “the hard way.” Wishes he learned them earlier.

End of talk had a 30-minute Q/A session.

Listeners are no doubt passionate, with big dreams, perhaps worried your story is not interesting enough, procrastinating due to perfectionism. You are not alone.

Reserve self-publishing as a last resort. Try to get paid by publisher, though they are very choosy. Follow 7 rules to get ahead.

Most manuscripts are evaluated by publishers yes/no in the first couple of pages. The good stuff must start with the first word.  The words are designed to keep the readers turning pages.

1.    Write a killer opening: first paragraph, first five pages. Publishers want you to succeed. Start with the good stuff: give enough information, but not too much, start with action.

2.    Put character in big trouble ASAP. Not necessarily life/death. Depends on genre. Make reader care about character and goal…to care and identify. [Koontz: plunge, progressively worse, hopeless, hero rises.]

3.    Master point of view (POV). Each scene is from POV of one major character. Need not be in first-person. Tells what that character experiences. One perspective character per scene. That character says the most important material. “Voice” is 1st, 2nd, 3rd person. Avoid 2nd("you," "your").1st is good choice for beginners and now popular. Present tense is popular but awkward. Omniscient 3rd person narrator is classic. You can use a few perspective characters, but separate them with typographical objects, and only one per scene: e.g., ###.

4.    Show don’t tell. Showing engages your reader, while telling merely informs. Telling, “it was cold outside,” versus showing your character engaging in something that also indicates it is cold. Resist the temptation to explain. RUE = resist urge to explain. Trigger the theater of the mind of the reader.

5.    Master the Art of Dialogue: characters talk normally to each other, economically. Avoid “on-the-nose” writing, too much unneeded detail. Be succinct. “Paige took a call from her producer” versus long paragraph. Don’t distract reader with minutia. Cut, cut, cut…build immediacy.

6.    Become a ferocious self-editor. Shrink those sentences. Just say it. Delete subtle redundancies. “Walked through the open door.” Avoid clich├ęs, verbal and situational. Good writing consists of powerful nouns and verbs not adverbs and adjectives. Omit needless words.

7.    Get expert coaching [which is what Jenkins is selling]. Need honest, constructive criticism.

The audio was a bit muddy for Jenkins though not for his announcer.

The remainder of the webinar was an offering of coaching services and a question and answer session. To enroll, email him: or investigate the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild at

Summarized by:

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.,
where I offer inexpensive coaching and editing.

22 October 2018

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