Whether you’re a novice storyteller or a longtime wordsmith looking to develop her craft, there are always ways to improve your fiction writing. Maybe you won’t make millions in bestsellers, or maybe you’ll be the next Agatha Christie. But without practice, constructive criticism and dedication to developing your skill, you’ll be stuck in writer’s limbo. Use these ways to improve your fiction writing, then get to work.
1. Pens and Paper: Don’t Get Caught without Them
You never know when an idea will come. At the office, on the train or in your doctor’s waiting room--wherever you are, have paper and writing utensils at your disposal. If you find that you’re suffering through a creative drought and in desperate need of ways to improve your fiction writing, having the literal tools to do so is absolutely essential. Keep a small notebook and pen with you at all times.
2. Look, Listen and Observe
One of the most difficult things to master in fiction writing is effective dialogue. Dialogue between characters serves to move the storyline along, to expose the motivation of the speakers, to inform and at times even entertain. Listening to how people talk, what words they choose, what dialect or accent they have, what makes them sputter, or stutter, or smile can make for a realness in dialogue.
3. Practice Free Writing
The act of free writing pays no mind to sentence structure, proper punctuation or grammar. Free writing, plain and simple, is putting pen to paper nonstop for a set amount of time. Don’t consider topics, characters, plot or anything structurally relevant to a specific story or idea. Just pick up the pen and see what happens. Maybe you’ll have something usable for a future project or maybe you’ll have a bunch of nonsense, but this is one of the most recommended treatments for that maligned ailment known as writer’s block. Give it a try!
4. Read Often
While you might be skeptical of consuming others' works when you’re supposed to be writing your own, don’t be. Good writers should be avid readers. You’ll know what to strive for in your own writing and what to avoid. You’ll know how to identify contrived characters and cliches just as you’ll know what richly crafted characters and high-stake conflicts you’ve enjoyed. Obviously, plagiarism is the cardinal sin for all writers. But learn that what you read might inspire you for bigger and better things from your own mind.
5. Embellish a Little
Good writers always have a story to tell. While of course I do mean that statement literally, I also want you to consider your everyday conversations. How many times in the day do you say, “You’ll never believe what happened,” and proceed to tell your family or friends an extraordinary account of a chance encounter, a strange occurrence or a humorous situation? If you’re a good storyteller, then you have a solid foundation for being a good story writer. Fiction by definition is a big, boldfaced lie. And while I’m not encouraging you to border pathological territory by lying to your loved ones, why not embellish a few details in your storytelling? Gauge a reaction and save that creative flow for when it’s time to hit that writing desk.
6. Keep an Idea Board
I have several idea boards in progress, actually. I have one for my own blog, one for my work here at All Women Stalk (the fruits of which I hope you enjoy) and one for fictitious works. Spend some time at your board each day, expanding on an idea you’ve had previously and fine-tuning the details. Let’s say I have an idea for a story about a girl named Ashley. Maybe the next day I’ll decide she works at a record shop. Maybe later that afternoon I’ll decide that she every time she encounters someone she instantly is reminded of a particular song. She’ll hear it in her mind and lyrically references the songs out loud, but no one ever seems to understand and thinks she’s rather bizarre. Until she meets a man named John, who gets that “Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again” is from Lovesong by The Cure. Boom! They’re in a relationship and all is well. Then maybe a few days later I go back to the idea board and find the conflict of the story. On the way home from a concert one stormy night, the boyfriend behind the wheel gets our protagonist and himself in a car crash that permanently impairs her hearing. Will their relationship go unharmed? How will she adapt to the silence of what was once a music-filled world? Well... I guess we’ll have to wait ‘til I get back to the idea board and see.
7. Write Every Single Day
This is a given. While you’re not going to pen a masterpiece during your lunch hour, every book starts as something small at first. Dedicate time every single day to writing. If you have a set schedule of work and school and can dedicate a particular time slot for writing, then do just that. If your schedule is apt to frequent changes, you’ll need all the more diligence to keeping up with this daily ritual. Don’t think of this as a daily chore. Think of this as staying true to who you are and what you do. Long story short, writers write.
There are entire sections of your local book store dedicated to improving your writing skills. But until you put pen to paper and make it happen for yourself, those how-to books are just overpriced coasters on your coffee table. Take these 7 tips with you on your journey into fiction writing and fearlessly greet the blank page. What advice do you have for better fiction writing?