Many of us feel we have got a great story inside us just waiting to be told. But when it comes to putting pen to paper it can be difficult to find the right words. Being a good fiction writer is not just about having a fantastic idea for a story. It takes practice and discipline. It is easy to fall into common fiction writing traps, become clichéd and get lost and muddled along the way. Here are some tips on what to avoid and what to include if you want to be a fiction writer.
1 Start well. Avoid clichéd openings ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ etc. The beginning of your book needs to be exciting, engaging and full of action. Unless you have a truly unusual way to describe the weather, maybe avoid making this your opening line.
2 Stick to “said” to carry dialogue. Even though you may be desperate to explain to the reader that the character is angry, sad or overjoyed if you use anything other then “said” it actually distracts from the dialogue which should convey the emotion you are trying to portray itself, without having to point it out to the reader. By using ‘spluttered’ ‘shouted’ ‘gasped’ or ‘angrily’ ‘sadly’ ‘happily’ you are telling the reader rather than showing, which makes for clumsy, cluttered prose.
3 Don’t over exclaim!!!!!
While punctuation can be used cleverly and properly to enhance a story, overuse of exclamation marks can be hugely distracting and cause great annoyance to your reader. Keep these under control, and definitely don’t use more than one in a row!
4 Avoid accents
Unless you can write them exceptionally well. Remember you want your reader to be able to read your story, not have to go over words and sentences several times to make sense of them. If you want to use accents or regional dialects then do it sparingly, dropping a few choice words in here any there to give a flavour of an accent without ruining the flow of the words on the page.
5 Don’t overwrite
All fiction writers are likely to have been guilty of this at one time or another. Try to carefully select words and make each one of them count and work to enhance your story. Stuffing the page with hugely detailed paragraphs that describe every single thing to within an inch of its life simply demonstrates a lack of skill and brings the story to a standstill as a result.
6 Read it out loud
If you aren’t sure how well your story flows, try reading it aloud. This is often the quickest way to finding out whether it is working or not. If your prose sounds clunky and stunted, go back and try again.
7 Don’t overthink
If you put too much pressure on yourself, the likelihood is that you’ll scare yourself into such a state you won’t be able to write anything at all. When you write first drafts try to remember that’s exactly what they are -first drafts. They don’t need to be perfect so let yourself get the story down and then work at it until it’s right.
8 Get opinions
It is hard to look at your book completely objectively – this is understandable, after all – you wrote it. Whether you get a tingling excitement because you think it might be quite good, or you have read it so many times it barely seems like a story at all, either way getting a second, third, fourth (as many as possible really) opinion from someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth is always a good idea.
9 Be kind to yourself
It’s easy to feel disheartened as a fiction writer. There are so many obstacles to climb during the writing process, and if you are in the minority who actually finish a piece of fiction, knowing what to do with it becomes a whole other problem. Give yourself a break and remind yourself that you are not alone – most other writers have felt pretty bleak at one time or another too!
10 Finish before you want to stop
No matter how into your writing you are, end the day before you run out of things to say. If you stop yourself while you are still immersed in your writing, when you come back to it you will immediately have something to get you going rather then struggling to know where to begin.
Being a fiction writer is no walk in the park, and being a good one even more of a challenge. However through learning and practice, perseverance, determination and perhaps just a little bit of luck, you’ll get there, no matter how long it takes.