Are you hoping to become the next great novelist? Check out our guide with the best writing tips for fiction to guide you.
Writing fiction is a task that can feel a bit overwhelming for new writers. Whether you are trying to write a book or a short story, getting all of the elements into your piece while paying attention to good grammar can feel daunting. You must think simultaneously about character development, setting and plot consistency, the plot graph, and grammar. You can do many things to simplify the writing process and make yourself more effective.
These ten writing tips for fiction are an excellent place to start. Read through them, then grab your pen or computer and start writing.
1. Think of a Story You Love
Every great piece of fiction writing starts with a story, so take the time to think of a story idea that you genuinely love. Did you have a core memory as a child of something traumatic, funny, or interesting that happened to you? This could be developed into a story.
Everything in the story, from the characters to the main plot and even the setting, must be something you feel strongly about. One way to do this is to give your characters a persona and a back story, even if you don’t share this with your reader. It will help you connect emotionally with those characters. When you are deeply invested in your characters and their experiences, you’ll find that your story becomes more effective.
2. Keep Your Sentences Brief
Fiction readers don’t want to read long sentences and paragraphs. They prefer more succinct writing styles. As you write, keep your sentences varied but brief simultaneously. This will make your writing more attractive to the reader. There may be a place for long, descriptive paragraphs or monologues, but they should be few and far between. Edit out redundancies or overly flowery writing to make your work as concise as possible.
3. Vary Your Writing Style
As you write, ensure your writing style varies from sentence to sentence, even while keeping your sentences brief. Use different sentence patterns, introductory phrases, and dialogue to break up your text. Variety makes the writing more interesting. People will be more inclined to read your novel if you keep it interesting.
4. Spend Time Writing Daily
While this isn’t a grammar or style writing tip, it’s important if you want to be a skilled fiction writer. Spend time writing every day. The famous author Stephen King says he writes 2,000 words a day. This doesn’t mean you will spend time writing in your main writing project daily, but you do need to write. If you’re facing writer’s block on your main project, consider writing a short story or poem when you can’t work on your book. The more you write, the better you will be at it.
5. Write in the Active Voice
There are two voices in English writing: active and passive. Active voice is when the subject of the sentence is doing the action in the verb. Here is an example:
- The dog ate his bone.
The passive voice is the action done by something other than the subject. Here is an example:
- The dog ate the bone.
While there are a few times when the passive voice makes sense, such as when the subject is unknown in the story, you usually will need the active voice. Limit the passive voice when writing fiction to make your writing more powerful and effective. Using the subject-verb-object sentence pattern and avoiding the preposition “by” will help you do this.
6. Read Famous Works of Fiction
The best writers are readers. As you work to write your fiction works, make sure you spend time reading other authors. You’ll pick up on developing a plot, revealing a climax, and using words effectively. Even if you’re not consciously absorbing these things, they are getting into your mind, and they will flow out in your writing. Read authors in all different genres, not just the genre where you will write, to get the most out of this activity.
7. Create a Loose Outline
Before you write your short story or novel, create a brief outline of the main plot points. However, don’t follow the outline too tightly if your story changes as you develop it. Think of the outline as a fluid document that you can change when you need to, but do have one to keep you on a road map towards your completed work. Adjusting your outline as you go will help you craft a story that you love, while keeping the outline as a rigid guide will stifle your writing creativity.
8. Show, Don’t Tell, in Your Writing
In fiction, you need to share some facts with your reader. In these instances, you can either blatantly tell the reader the facts they need to know or show them through the details you present. Use your words to show the character’s character traits, the details of the setting, and the action of the story, but don’t just tell them what happened. For example, you could say, “It was cold outside,” or, “She stepped into the frigid backyard as she searched for her missing dog.” One shows more about the story and the character rather than just telling a fact about the temperature.
9. Stick to One Point of View
Point of view is essential to writing fiction, and you’ll need to pick one. The common points of view in fiction include:
- First-person – In this point of view, the person telling the story is the main character, and they tell the story using “I” and “me” terminology.
- Third-person – Third-person point of view is told from an outside source. It uses “he/she/they” terminology to write the story.
- Second-person – This is less common because it can be tricky, but the second-person point of view talks directly to the reader, using “you” and “your” terminology.
In addition, you will need to decide if your narrator is omniscient or limited in their knowledge of what happens. You can have an all-knowing narrator who knows what is happening to all of the characters, or you can limit the narrator’s knowledge to what is happening to just one. Once you choose, stay consistent throughout your piece, only changing when you have a literary reason, such as using multiple narrators to tell a story in different parts of the work.
10. Edit and Revise
Editing is key to any good piece of fiction, so make sure you plan time to edit and revise using these strategies:
- Remove wordiness and unnecessary elements
- Tighten up the dialogue
- Make sure each word moves the reader to the next one
- Edit at the end after you write.
- Give the piece a chance to rest before you edit
- Consider having a few additional people take a look to help you through the editing process
Remember, the more eyes you get on your piece, the better your revision will be. Take some time on this step, and you will produce a piece that stands out from the crowd.
Looking for more? Check out our writing tips for beginners!