monique polak

Monique Polak's Books


  • Consider using an outline. Having an outline is like using a road map. It helps you get to where you’re going. But don’t feel you have to stick too rigidly to your plan – sometimes, surprises happen. And like when you’re on a road trip, a detour you hadn’t planned on can be the best part of your trip.
  • Write about things, people, places and experiences that you know. And if you don’t know about them – do your research! (See the Interviewing Tips that follow.)
  • Avoid two-dimensional characters. Bring your characters to life by giving them good and bad qualities.
  • Use as few words as possible to make your point. It is better to say your character is “skinny” or “emaciated” than to say he is “very thin.” Words are like money – don’t waste them!
  • SHOW, DON’T TELL. This rule is in capitals because it’s so important. Don’t say, for instance, that your character is sad. Show it! Use body language and/or dialogue to reveal a character’s emotions.
  • Use dialogue to help advance your story. But make sure your characters sound like themselves. A 15-year-old boy living in the 21st century wouldn’t use words like “thus” and “alas.” To improve your “ear” for dialogue, listen in on other people’s conversations and pay attention to how they use language.
  • Avoid clichés – phrases, ideas and stories that have already been done. Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury observed, “Creativity is continual surprise.” Surprise your reader with your language and ideas.
  • Make your details work for you. For instance, a description of a teenage girl’s bedroom could include both her collection of stuffed animals and a ticket stub from a recent rock concert. These kinds of details could help indicate something important about your character: that she is in transition between childhood and adulthood.
  • Read your work aloud to see how it sounds. This is also a good way to catch mistakes.
  • Revise your work. Polish up your writing as if you were a jeweller polishing your gems. I rewrote one of my books seven (yes, seven!) times before it was published.
  • Proofread. Review your sentence structure, punctuation and spelling. Don’t rely on Spellcheck to correct your spelling mistakes. If you’re not sure how to spell a word, use the dictionary. Small errors make a bad impression on the reader.