Want to get started writing fiction? Perhaps you’ve always like telling stories, or maybe you’d like to add ghostwriting to the writing services you offer your clients.
Whatever your reasons for writing fiction, your desire to write is a good indication that you can.
It’s worth thinking about what fiction actually is — it’s lies.
When you’re writing fiction, you get paid to tell lies
When you’re writing fiction, in essence you’re getting paid to tell lies. Yes, I’m stating the blindingly obvious, but it’s worth remembering.
Here’s why. New fiction authors tend to write autobiography as fiction, usually unconsciously. This is a trap, because it’s limiting.
You can only write from what you’ve experienced, but this means emotions you’re experienced. It doesn’t mean that you must experience events in order to write about them, otherwise many mystery authors would be writing their novels from prison.
Let’s look at some beginners’ tips.
1. Aim to write in scenes: you’re building good habits
Your fiction is divided into two forms of writing: narrative, and scenes.
Narrative tells the reader — you’ve heard of tell and show — narrative is telling.
When Marian finished the day’s chores, she decided to go to the coffee shop. She’d just parked the car when she saw Janey. Why wasn’t Janey at work?
On the other hand, a scene is showing, and your scenes happen in real time. The operative word is “happens” — something happens in a scene. Every scene needs to move your plot forward, and is challenging for your characters:
The old saying that when your characters are having fun, readers aren’t, is true. Make life difficult for your characters in every scene. Not every scene needs to be filled with loud conflict or angst of course. However, even in a scene where all is well, make sure that something is off.
2. Expect your first draft to be rubbish: you’ll make it better
When you start writing fiction, you’ll realize immediately that it’s hard to get those brilliant, totally amazing ideas in your head onto the page.
You’ll be immensely frustrated when you realize this, and you’ll be afraid that you can’t write fiction.
You can. Happily, no one will ever see your first draft, so get the words written. Any words. You can improve on what you wrote later.
Focus on the lies you’re telling. Stop “writing”:
To sell, your novel must entertain readers.
Unfortunately we authors often lose track of the “entertainment factor.” It’s easily done. We’re writers, so we concentrate on the writing. We want to write well — but when that shows, it’s fatal.
3. Remember to give your major characters flaws
Have you heard of Mary Sues? Mary Sues are idealized reflections of the author. (The male version is a Marty Stu.) A Mary Sue character is literally too good to be true.
Unfortunately, Mary Sues are easy to write, and new authors adore them, and why not? A Mary Sue is perfect, after all.
When you catch yourself adoring a character, beware. Remember that we said that when an author’s having fun the reader isn’t? If you believe you’ve created a wonderful bunch of characters, cast a cynical eye over them.
Give them flaws, real flaws. Keep the character’s age in mind, however:
The older a character, the harder it is to make him/ her sympathetic despite a flaw, because that flaw is part of the character. Few people change in any fundamental way once they’re in their 30s and beyond. Their character is set: that’s just the way they are.
Writing fiction is lies. And fun
Remember to tell lies — exciting lies, and create imperfect characters too. You’ll win lots of readers.
All authors do; no one sets out to write a boring novel.
Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.More info →
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.More info →