Want to Become A Better Fiction Writer?
I’m not the writer I used to be, and I’m thankful for that. I’ve evolved with time, life experience and practice. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned over my decades that have helped be become a better fiction writer. Everyone’s writing journey is different, but I hope they will help you on yours, as well.
To understand the craft and the mechanics of good writing and storytelling, you have to read a wide variety of books. I don’t recommend imitating other writers, but learning from their styles can only help you. Pay special attention to how the different writers handle dialogue for example. There’s a lot in that arena you won’t find in a standard grammar guide.
To write dialogue well, listen to how people speak
Better yet, write it down. Eavesdrop in a coffee shop or on the bus. There is a cadence and rhythm to how people talk. You will notice there is a lot of back and forth, fragments and contractions in most people’s manner of speaking. It’s also fun to steal dialogue and use it in your story, as well.
Read your work out loud
It will help you write smoother and more tightly. It will help you spot words you don’t need, as well as mistakes like missing words that spellcheck just can’t see. Read it out loud at least once. The brain processes the words on the page differently when you read it out loud.
If you can, do a live reading in front of a crowd
It will give you more confidence and help you figure out how to summarize your work in an engaging manner. You will get a great pulse on where people laugh and where they cry. Find a reading or live lit series by you or create one if there aren’t any in your area. Performing a story can change how you write.
Play with other genres
What can poetry teach a fiction writer? It can teach you how to fiddle with the music of language or write better imagery or metaphors, for example. Journalism can teach you not to waste words and to hit hard in the beginning with the most important details to get the reader’s attention from page one. Different types of writing can have a positive impact on your fiction. Don’t be afraid to stretch your writing muscles with different styles.
Ideally, write every day. It’s like playing the scales on a piano. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be different types of writing, even journaling. You will have more material to draw from and the words will come easier.
Find writing friends who inspire you
If you are going to use critique partners, be selective and make sure they are on your level, understand your genre and are constructive. Prompt writing groups can be a lot of fun and can help you generate material. Meeting up with a writing buddy at a coffee shop can also give you someone to bounce ideas with and motivation to keep going.
Learn the rules so you can better break them
Pick up that grammar guide or writing book and learn the mechanics of language. Some rules shouldn’t be broken. It’s easy to take a reader out of the story with the incorrect version of their vs. they’re, for example.
Hire a professional editor
Choose someone you trust who respects your voice, helps you be the best writer you can and who challenges you to take your writing up a notch. A good editor can help educate you about grammar rules, and knows how to enhance your unique style, as well as story.
Write what hurts
Don’t let your characters off easy. Embrace conflict and let the emotions flow in your writing. The story may not be real but the emotions you and your reader are feeling should be. When I kill a character, I cry. Fiction is a lovely language in that no one knows what’s real and what isn’t, except you. Be fearless and use this language to tell a truth or two from your own life.