Tips on How to Write Fiction

Writing a Fiction BookSo now you’re clear on what type of book you would like to write: Fiction.

Good for you, there is no shortage of topics for a fiction book. The limits, really, are only imposed by your imagination. So what kind of things should you look out for when writing your fiction book?

Often, a fictional piece begins with a thought. Sometimes, this thought is triggered by a word, smell, scene in the larger world, or a “what if” premise. “What if” premises are very much key elements in true fiction, as they propel a story forward plot-wise. However, in order for a fictional piece to truly fill its lungs and breathe, it’s important to provide it with a few essential elements.

Don’t miss this video where Salman Rushdie shares some thoughts on novel writing:



1. Understand your characters. The protagonist, antagonist, and other major characters in the story should have back-stories that help shape their personality. The author should know what has become of the characters’ parents, the sort of education the characters did or didn’t receive, their place of employment and opinion about it, and their hopes, dreams, and fears. Tons of websites provide templates for character sketches. Use them to the fullest.

2. Avoid using adverbs to modify verbs and avoid using far-fetched substitutes for “said” when writing dialogues. Also, keep exclamation points and italics to a minimum.

3. Avoid starting a book with a talk about weather. There are some small exceptions, such as when the weather is being used as a plot device, but otherwise, opening with talk of the weather is considered cliché.

4. Speaking of clichés. Avoid them “like the plague” (yes, that was intended). It’s a reflection of lazy writing. By the same vein, avoid stereotypes, too.

5. Watch tenses. It’s easy to slip from present to past. Find one and stick with it. Also be careful of the voice used by your narrator and make sure it also stays consistent.

6. Every good writer knows that words are a precious resource. Use them effectively, stating only what is necessary. Wordiness is used when an author does not believe the story itself is any good and tries to make up for it with word vomit. Don’t make others sick with it. Keep the descriptive writing of places, things or characters to what is essential to the story.

7. With each end to a chapter, something should’ve happened to move the story forward. If it hasn’t, revisit the chapter. Always think in terms of action and keep the story moving.

8. Have a second set of trusted eyes and have them look over your work. You’ll be amazed at what others will catch and how some of your “brilliant moments” may not even get them to raise an eyebrow.

9. Be comfortable with changing things. Fiction always goes through several revisions. Be open to the possibility of good ideas becoming better ones.

10. Organize your work. Whether by chapter or outline, eventually, it will be prudent to have a handle on the twists and turns of the story. Some writers don’t like to know what will happen before they’ve written it. Others provide outlines so detailed before ever writing a word that the outline itself serves as a very convincing synopsis. In either case, it will be eventually prudent to create either detailed outlines, or single line passages that highlight major plot points so you don’t lose your way.

11. Read the work aloud. This helps you spot unnatural changes in rhythm, dialogues that do not sound honest, as well as plain ol’ typos. If, for example, characters sound stiff while reading the dialogue then go back and redo the writing.

12. Push ahead. The biggest battle of writing is writing. Commit to writing every day, inspired or not. There is no better habit to have as a writer. Return to the work each day and contribute, forging on to the very end.

13. Set the work aside. Leave it, forget it, and allow time to pass before taking another look at it.

14. Write what you need to write. Write the story you want to tell, not what you think will sell.


Useful resources:

Character Profile Template (from Laura Hayden’s “Left-Brain- Right Brain/Creativity Program”)
Grammar in Fiction


Filed in: Writing Your Book

One Response to “Tips on How to Write Fiction”

  1. Jason Moser
    November 1, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Great tips for authors of fiction. I agree with all of them and use the same rules for my own writing. First time writers need this information to avoid numerous rewrites and rejections.

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