Over the past couple of years, I’ve received more questions from readers about fiction writing than about anything else.
The most common question is: how do I write a book which sells? The short answer is, write an entertaining story, and get it in front of readers.
That said, the biggest challenge for many writers is getting started.
Fiction writing: get started, and write
Oddly enough, some of my writing students who ask dozens of questions haven’t started writing fiction yet. They’re nervous — they think that they need to know stuff before they begin. They want to know how to write successful fiction.
They also want to know how to self-publish, and/ or how to get a literary agent… but they’ve yet to write a word of fiction. Alternatively, they started writing, and then gave up.
Yes, these writers fear failure, but they fear success too.
Let’s look at some tips which may help.
1. Drop your fears of success and failure
To write fiction you need to write. Readers will read your novel in a few hours, but you write your novel word by word. Those words build into paragraphs, then into scenes and chapters.
Important: you’re writing at a micro level — word by word. It’s easy to make judgments about your writing which are wrong because you’re too close to it. You can’t read as a reader does.
Do your best and tell your story as well as you can. No one’s asking you to be Hemingway. Fears of success and failure get in the way: entertain yourself, and you’ll entertain readers.
2. Not ready to write? No one is. Start anyway
Funny story. This morning, I completed a novel after procrastinating on the final scene for three days. Yes, I know better, but I procrastinated anyway.
I started the scene, didn’t like it, and… stopped. (Sigh…)
After three days I managed to convince myself that it was just a SCENE, and I’ll change it in revision and editing anyway.
We’re always our own worst enemy; writing can be a battle with yourself.
3. If you’re worried that: “people will think…” Stop it. Use your imagination to help you to write, instead
You’re a fiction author, so you have a good imagination. That imagination can be a double-edged sword. Control it.
Most people won’t think anything about anything you wrote, because most people would rather gouge out an eyeball with a rusty spoon than read your novel.
The people who do read it, if they’re friends, will be kind. They’ll lie to spare your feelings if they must. 🙂 The people who aren’t your friends definitely won’t read it, and they’ll lie about that.
So use your imagination constructively. Focus on telling a great story for the people who love to read the genre/ genres that you write; entertain them, and you’ve done everything you need to do.
4. Prime the pump to overcome inertia
Can’t get started writing? On the days that the words flow like molasses:
- Free write;
- Mind map;
- Write an email message about your novel (don’t send it anywhere…);
- Write about your novel. Ask yourself questions;
When the words won’t come there’s a reason. Your creative self is trying to tell you something. Stop writing, and do some pre-writing — prime the pump. Today, or tomorrow, you’ll understand what your creative self is trying to tell you.
Your creative self — call it your creativity, or imagination, or subconscious mind — always tries to help. So, when your writing stutters, pay attention.
Have fun — write. 🙂
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