Category Archives: improve writing
Writing fiction can be complex and multifaceted. There are countless details to consider throughout the process. There’s the initial brainstorming, the outlining, the countless hours of research, the actual writing, and the inevitable revising. As if that wasn’t enough, you still have the editing process, a monumental task of its own. All this to create what you hope will be an amazing work of fiction that readers will fall in love with. Not much to ask, right?
In doing this research, I’ve gathered an immeasurable amount of ideas concerning fiction writing. These writing tips, from countless sources, might be helpful to other writers tackling a novel by offering different viewpoints and by providing food for the creative process.
Hopefully, the tips below will help make writing that novel a little easier.
- Read more fiction than you write.
- Don’t lock yourself into one genre (in reading or writing). Even if you have a favorite genre, step outside of it occasionally.
- Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
- Dissect and analyze stories you love from books, movies, and television to find out what works in storytelling and what doesn’t.
- Don’t write for the market. Tell the story that’s in your heart. You can make an outline before, during, or after you finish your rough draft. It will provide you with a road map, which is a powerful tool to have at your disposal.
- Some of the best fiction comes from real life. Jot down stories that interest you whether you hear them from a friend or read them in a news article.
- Real life is also a great source of inspiration for characters. Look around at your friends, family, and coworkers. Magnify and mix the strongest aspects of their personalities, and you’re on your way to crafting a cast of believable characters.
- Make your characters real through details rather than lengthy head-to-toe physical descriptions.
- The most realistic and relatable characters are flawed. Find something good about your villain and something dark in your hero’s past.
- Avoid telling readers too much about the characters. Instead, show the characters’ personalities through their actions and interactions.
- Give your characters difficult obstacles to overcome. Make them suffer. That way, when they triumph, it will be even more rewarding.
- Cultivate a distinct voice. Your narrator should not sound warm and friendly in the first few chapters and then objective and aloof in later chapters. The voice should be consistent, and its tone should complement the content of your book.
- Give careful consideration to the narrative point of view. Is the story best told in first person or third person? If you’re not sure, write a few pages in each narrative point of view to see what works best.
- Is your story moving too fast for readers or are they yawning through every paragraph? Are the love scenes too short? Are the fight scenes too long? Do you go into three pages of detail as your characters walk from point A to point B and then fly through an action sequence in a couple of short paragraphs? Pay attention to pacing!
- Infuse your story with rich themes to give it a humanistic quality. Examples of themes include sacrifice, redemption, rebirth, life and death, faith, destiny, etc. These are the big shadows that hover over your story.
- Make sure you understand that every story needs a beginning, middle, and an end.
- Use symbols and imagery to create continuity throughout your story. Think about how the White Rabbit kept popping up when Alice was adventuring through Wonderland or how the color red was used in the film American Beauty. These are subtle details that give your story great power.
- Every great story includes transformation. The characters change, the world changes, and hopefully, the reader will change too.
- Enrich your main plot with subplots. In real life, there’s a lot happening at once.
- There is a difference between a sub-plot and a tangent. Don’t go off on too many tangents.
- If you write in a genre, don’t be afraid to blur the lines. A horror story can have funny moments and a thriller can have a bit of romance.
- Make sure your setting is vivid and realistic even if you made it up.
- If you didn’t make up your setting, then do your best to get to the location and see it for yourself before you finish your manuscript. If that’s not possible, get busy researching.
- Give the readers room to think. You don’t have to tell your story in minute detail, including each minute of the plot’s timeline or all of the characters’ thoughts. Provide enough dots, and trust that the reader will be able to connect them when your story makes time jumps.
- Let the readers use their imaginations with your story’s descriptions as well. Provide a few choice details and let the readers fill in the rest of the canvas with their own colors.
- Don’t focus exclusively on storytelling at the expense of compelling language.
- Appeal to readers’ senses. Use descriptive words that engage the readers’ senses of taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell.
- Apply poetry techniques to breathe life into your prose. Use alliteration, onomatopoeia, metaphor, and other literary devices to make your sentences sing and dance.
- When rewriting, check for the following: plot holes, character inconsistencies, missing scenes, extraneous scenes, accuracy in research, and of course, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- As you revise, ask yourself whether every paragraph, sentence, and word is essential to your story. If it’s not, you know where the delete button is.
- Before your final revisions and before you send your manuscript out to any agents or editors, find your beta readers: join a writing group, take a fiction workshop, or hire a pro.
- Do not send out your rough draft. Go through the revision process at least three times before handing it out to your beta readers. The stronger it is when you bring in editors, the stronger those editors will be able to make it.
- Have fun. If you’re not enjoying writing, then maybe it’s not for you. If you’re not enjoying fiction writing, try something else, like poetry, blogging, or screenwriting. Be willing to experiment and you’ll find your way.
Were these writing tips helpful? Got any tips to add? Leave a comment!
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Writing success comes down to hard work, imagination, more hard work, passion – and then more hard work. Even if you are an absolutely fantastic writer who will be remembered for years to come, you will still most likely receive a good amount of criticism, rejection, and possibly ridicule before you get there. It happens to everyone, no matter whom they are, and should come as no real surprise. These writers, having been through it all, offer us some writing tips without pulling punches.
- I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee
- A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? . — George Orwell
- Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. ― Kurt Vonnegut
- In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it. — Rose Tremain
- You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking its good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. — Octavia Butler
- You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
- Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution. — Michael Moorcock
- Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one was not driven on by some demon that one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell
- There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham
- If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. – Stephen King
- The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’” — Helen Simpson
- Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.– Anton Chekhov
- Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
- The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.— Neil Gaiman
- If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser
- Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. – Joshua Wolf Shenk
- Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain
- The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway
- Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ― Neil Gaiman
- You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury
- Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman
Even famous authors on occasion have a tough time, and often go through periods of self-doubt. So take a lesson from them and never give up. Don’t put off your writing plans. There has never been a better time than now to realize your dream of becoming a published author. Tell your story and let your voice be heard!
- How often do you use the word “very” in your writing? It is often extremely overused and can make your sentences sound weak. So check out this site. It gives you 128 ways to avoid using this word by replacing it with stronger more vibrant ones.
- Need some help with your grammar? Take the following quiz and find out how much you know.
- Book titles, blog headings, or other articles are sometimes difficult to come by. You might need a little help occasionally. Here are 7 tools to provide that help.
- Do you love the television show “Game of Thrones” or the books? Here are 5 lessons to be learned from them.
- Do you know how to research a novel, and when to stop? This article could be helpful.
- Tips for finding those eye-catching images for your books, articles, or blogs.
Which ones are your favorites?
If these were helpful to you, please pass them on!
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