6 Practical Tips for Beginning Fiction Writers
by Paula Boyd
Author of the Award-Winning Jolene Jackson Mystery Series, Hot Enough to Kill
When you’re just starting out on your dream of becoming a published author, you can get wrapped up in the technicalities of it all and miss the big picture. Here are a few practical tips to remember that will keep you on track of your goal of writing stories people want to read—books they want to buy.
- Forget about being a great writer. The number one thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a great writer, what matters is that you’re a great storyteller. Big difference. Learn the rules and the ropes, but don’t hang yourself with them. You can turn readers off just as easily with stiff and stilted perfect prose as with poor grammar and ignorance of punctuation.
- Write what you know. I know you’ve heard it, but do you know why it’s so important? It’s easier! It’s also more authentic. I’m not saying you can’t research anything enough to write about it. I’m saying it is far easier to craft a story around a setting, occupation and even character traits that you have lived with. There’s enough to deal with in writing a first novel without adding unnecessary complications, so stack the deck in your favor however you can!
- If you don’t read it, don’t try to write it. The prerequisite to this is that if you aren’t a reader, you can’t be an effective writer. Unless you awake one morning with a vision and a script divinely delivered, you’re going to have to know your craft, your audience and their expectations. And, by being well read in your genre, you naturally and intuitively know the language and rhythm and will write accordingly.
- If you have to explain it, it doesn’t work. Just because it makes total sense in your head doesn’t mean it does in anyone else’s. If you have people saying they don’t understand—believe them. You can’t be there to explain to every reader what you actually meant, so make sure your words convey what you intend.
- Be cautious about critique groups. We all want to share our work, and the support of kindred spirits is essential, however, you have to find the right fit. A critique group can be a lifeline and leapfrog you forward in improving your craft and getting published. It can also kill your personal voice and your creativity and set you back years in being able to write a publishable book. It is a fine line to walk between getting the feedback you need to improve your work and writing to please a particular or person or group who aren’t any farther along than you are.
- Just because you can publish it doesn’t mean you should. These days, anyone can instantly and overnight become a “published author.” It is a fabulous time to be a writer! Unfortunately, most of what gets published isn’t ready for prime time—no matter how many times your friends said it was. If you want to be a professional writer and author, hire a skilled book editor with expertise in your genre (no, your friend the English teacher can’t do it). Once it’s been published—errors and all—you can’t take it back and the reviews will haunt you forever.
Ultimately, your job is to create a world that your readers lose themselves in. You want to make them forget they’re reading and keep turning pages to find out what happens next. So, learn your craft, find your voice and tell a great story!
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Paula Boyd is the author of the award-winning Jolene Jackson Mystery Series. To register for chance to be a character in her next book, visit www.PaulaBoyd.com
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Genre – Mystery & Thriller / Women Sleuth
Rating – PG13