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33 Fiction Writing Tips

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.

Writing Tips

  1. Read more fiction than you write.
  2. Don’t lock yourself into one genre (in reading or writing). Even if you have a favorite genre, step outside of it occasionally.
  3. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  4. Dissect and analyze stories you love from books, movies, and television to find out what works in storytelling and what doesn’t.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Make your characters real through details rather than lengthy head-to-toe physical descriptions.
  9. The most realistic and relatable characters are flawed. Find something good about your villain and something dark in your hero’s past.
  10. Avoid telling readers too much about the characters. Instead, show the characters’ personalities through their actions and interactions.
  11. Give your characters difficult obstacles to overcome. Make them suffer. That way, when they triumph, it will be even more rewarding.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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!
  15. 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.
  16. Make sure you understand that every story needs a beginning, middle, and an end.
  17. 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.
  18. Every great story includes transformation. The characters change, the world changes, and hopefully, the reader will change too.
  19. Enrich your main plot with subplots. In real life, there’s a lot happening at once.
  20. There is a difference between a sub-plot and a tangent. Don’t go off on too many tangents.
  21. 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.
  22. Make sure your setting is vivid and realistic even if you made it up.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. Don’t focus exclusively on storytelling at the expense of compelling language.
  27. Appeal to readers’ senses. Use descriptive words that engage the readers’ senses of taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell.
  28. Apply poetry techniques to breathe life into your prose. Use alliteration, onomatopoeia, metaphor, and other literary devices to make your sentences sing and dance.
  29. When rewriting, check for the following: plot holes, character inconsistencies, missing scenes, extraneous scenes, accuracy in research, and of course, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  33. 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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