Fiction Writing Tips – 1 year in

  1. Don’t go on and on about the weather. Just because your character is witnessing the mother of all summer rainstorms doesn’t mean you need to describe it for half a page. Readers are here for character development. In particular, characters with giant flaws that we can all relate to.
  2. Don’t start with a prologue if you can reasonably add the backstory into your chapter dialogue. Why? Prologues are often just backstory that doesn’t even drive the plot and if something you write doesn’t serve your greater story arc, cut it!
  3. Use “said” as a dialogue time 95% of the time. Any other verb in replace of this is just you being lazy about describing the actions in between the dialogue that show character emotion. If you do REALLY need to use a verb other than said, avoid “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied” and “asseverated.” Speaking of dialogue tag tips, never modify said with adverbs, you really don’t need to say “she admonished gravely” if you can carry the grave tone in the wording of the dialogue itself this will involve the reader more fully in the plot.
  4. Reign in your use of exclamation marks. If I see one in the first chapter its either a middle grade novel or you didn’t use a quality editor.
  5. Avoid terms such as “he suddenly felt overcome by (insert random emotion here)” an “all hell broke loose” if you can show the readers that shits about to go down they are going to rate you five stars. if not, rework your draft.
  6. Avoid italics to convey tone, never use bold in your work either. Yes, even if they are yelling. Above all, don’t spell our regional dialect phonetically. This just kills the pacing of your scene.
  7. Avoid overly detailing the physical attributes of your characters. No one needs to know that the main character has five freckles on his right cheek but seven on his left. Outside of a hint at eye colour and ethnicity, let the characters personality and quirks inform the readers idea of their physical appearance. Lets be real, avoid over describing anything in your novel, setting, emotions, how the sewage treatment plant smells. These distractions don’t help with pacing, and the goal of your characters is the priority.
  8. Cut the fluff! If you would skip it when you are reading a book in the same genre it needs to go! Sometimes we writers get a wee bit excited by the sudden bursts of creativity that can overcome us and we suddenly HAVE TO ADD a little tidbit of detail that doesn’t serve to advance the plot or develop our characters in any way. This is okay, but they can’t be in your final draft.
  9. Lastly, if it sounds like rubbish when you read the paragraph out loud you need to rewrite it. No if’s, buts or any other whining. It needs to be rewritten. I did 24 drafts of my first novel ‘Awkward Honesty’ and looking back, I wish I’d done more. I probably could have got a traditional book deal if I had.

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