Have you always wanted to become a professional writer? Is getting published something you have wanted to achieve?
There are lots of people out there who want to write fiction, and in the world of the internet, it has become possible to get yourself published with ease or even opt for self-publishing.
While anyone can write fiction, not everyone writes good fiction. Therefore, it is not surprising to know that a lot of writers who are dipping their toes in the tumultuous and unpredictable waters of fiction for the first time, find this task daunting. The good news is that as long as you follow certain rules and guidelines, you are less likely to face problems.
Following these rules can keep your writing engaged and focused, which means that the chances of it getting published are definitely higher. Here are some simple and useful tips that can be useful to authors of any skill level:
1. Know your audience
When you are just a beginner, you might think that appealing to the widest possible audience is your ticket to success. While your intentions are in the right place, they come with a serious downside:
Your work is going to end up running in several directions and your story is going to be a muddled mess.
It is not possible to please everyone. A story that appeals to teenagers may not necessarily sound good to professional adults or middle-aged people. Mixing elements of chick-lit into an epic fantasy? Not advisable. Could work, but . . . really? Is there an audience for that?
Once you learn to accept that you can’t please everyone, it becomes possible for you to focus your energy on writing for a particular audience.
After you have decided who your audience is (age group, gender, LGBTQ, ect.), ensure that your own writing style fits with that audience. If you love writing action scenes with blood and gore and body parts flying everywhere, then perhaps you shouldn’t be targeting your writing to a middle-school crowd?
Finally, after you’ve completed your novel, re-read the story and keep your audience in mind while doing so. Finding that niche crowd of bookworms will do more for your sales than almost anything else you can think of.
2. Come up with real characters
The characters you create need to be as human as possible, or if they’re not human, they need recognizable personality traits so that your readers can relate to them.
This means that you need to give them phobias, nervous ticks and avoid making them cliches. Some of the best stories out there are the ones that have three-dimensional characters and allow readers to empathize with them strongly in several ways. For instance, a character who has to overcome his fears and problems before achieving their goal is much more interesting than someone who just breezes through everything. Readers find it easier to relate to the former, as everyone has conflicts and trials in their lives, and the end result is always more satisfying.
The same should be applicable to antagonists or villains. Emotions such as insecurity and jealousy are commonly experienced and easy to relate to. But, this is not enough. Characters should evolve with time. Every situation has an impact on them and they need to change or make adjustments accordingly. You should put your character into situations that force them to make mistakes and difficult choices. Any character that doesn’t evolve will only take away from the momentum of your story.
3. Show your audience rather than telling them
New writers often make this mistake; instead of just showing the reader, they focus more on explaining everything. Consider it a difference between watching a movie and having someone describe it to you.
Instead of telling the readers that the characters got into a fight with someone, you should describe the actual fight. Explain how the punches were thrown, who drew first blood and the other people who witnessed it. Furthermore, avoid three-page descriptions of backstory and weave it into your plot through dialogue. Sitting down at a fire and having one character tell a group of friends about the last thirty years of history is a sure way of making your novel history.
Do not make this mistake.
4. Stick to your main plot
It is natural for writers to come up with a subplot that seems fascinating, and that’s all fine and good.
However, all subplots should always serve the main plot. Your novel is not a sitcom and you cannot start multiple storylines without creating a giant mess that you might not be able to resolve. For beginner authors, you need to be diligently focused on a single plotline and if you do decide to add subplots, make sure they relate to the actual story and propel your characters forward to their end.
5. Understand the art of conflict
Creating a powerful conflict is no easy task. It can take years for authors to come up with a problem and then weave it tightly throughout the story without stumbling. Sure, you need to put in a lot of practice, but the catharsis that a reader will experience at the time of resolution is definitely worth it.
Readers will only be interested in the outcome when the conflict is exciting. Moreover, the conflict should have a major impact on your characters so that they are able to grow and change because of it. If you have a weak conflict that doesn’t change the characters and leaves them as they were, your conclusion will fall flat.
How do you learn to write a conflict?
Read and study the work of others.
The next time you are sitting down with your favorite paperback, just see how the author has introduced and then carried out the conflict and how the characters have responded. Ask yourself: Did they grow? Did they change for better or for worse?
You’ll notice that, in the best novels, they almost always have.
6. Always plan breaks
When you get started with writing, it can be difficult to stop, and that’s a good thing!
However, it is a good idea to take breaks and give yourself some time to process your story ideas. When you draft your writing schedule, it is recommended that you include some fun activities and breaks. This is a way to reward yourself for working hard and also prevent you from burning out. Plus, you might get some new ideas that can improve your story in the long run.
7. Revise the story
This is an important part of the entire writing process, but there are different approaches that can be used and no one approach is better than the other.
Some writers prefer to finish the whole story before they go back to making changes on their novel. They prefer assessing the story and identifying flaws after the entire story is complete. This is best for fast writers who regularly churn out 2000+ words a day.
Others prefer to do rewriting as they write because they find it easier to perfect the story while they are still adding and devising plot points. Revising early in the story can pave the way for more interesting ideas that wouldn’t be possible if you had waited to revise until after completion.
You can try both methods to see what works for you.
8. Accept that first drafts are often imperfect and messy
This is very important.
When you are close to finishing your first draft, remember that there is a good chance it will be a huge mess and you may feel disappointed when giving it that first read-through.
In fact, I can almost guarantee you will be disappointed.
When you finish writing your first draft, step away from your novel for a few weeks. Forget about it for a while, and then dig back into it with a fresh set of eyes. Most novelists make the mistake of stepping directly into their second draft upon completion of the first. But letting that baby marinate for a few weeks and tackling a new project in the meantime is key to any successful novel.
When the time comes to send it in to an editor, many writers feel apprehensive. But if you find a good editor, like the team here at the Author’s Hand, they will have the experience of working with new authors and will understand that the first, second and even third draft will have mistakes and plot inconsistencies. It is the editors job to fix these mistakes.
Authors are not editors. And authors are surely not the best person for the job for editing their own work. Put your trust in a professional and watch the quality of your novel improve tenfold.
Do you have any simple and useful tips for writing fiction that we may have missed? Let us know in the Comments section!