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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Tips for Better Fiction, part 2

(Tips for Better Fiction, part 1.) 

Say it without explaining it.
Whether your story is set in another galaxy or the next town over, build the world for us through dialogue and description. As they say, “Show, don’t tell!” This goes for your characters too—if Johnny is a mischievous little boy, show him drawing a mustache with blue marker on a framed portrait of his great-aunt Mildred, or picking holes in his sister’s stockings on the drying-rack. This requires much more imagination than simply writing “Johnny was a troublemaker,” and your reader will appreciate that.

Find the joy in discipline.
As children we’re implicitly taught to see “discipline” as a four-letter word, and yet we couldn’t get anything done without it! You don’t have to write every day (I don’t know any writer who does, although I’d say most of us do take notes on a daily basis), but if you can stick to a somewhat regular writing routine (and stay offline while doing it!), you’re that much closer to actually finishing something. Whenever you put in some quality writing time, take a moment to feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

Let it marinate.
It’s amazing how much work you wind up doing on a subconscious level. With several novel projects I’ve felt very strongly that their time just hadn’t come yet, so I put them on the “back burner.” When I’ve come back to them months or years later, I’ve found these projects fully “marinated” and ready to go. Treat your story like a hearty vegetable stew: give the ingredients a chance to mingle for maximum satisfaction!

Use your intuition.
Give that vast unconscious mind of yours more credit: underneath all that doubt, you know what you’re doing. The trick is to get out of your own way.

Ask yourself, “Who cares?”
Why does this story matter? How is it different from what’s already out there? Make your story richly worth your reader’s while.

Enjoy the process!
Don’t be in a rush to finish your project. This may surprise you, but I’ve found the greatest enjoyment in the actual writing of my books, as opposed to seeing them on the new fiction table at Barnes & Noble or doing book signings or other publicity. There’s no feeling on Earth like hitting that creative flow state, so relish it while it lasts!

Know when to let go.
Sometimes you wind up writing something just for the practice, and that’s totally okay.

Find a community.
Take a class, join a writing group, go to readings, make friends with another writer (who appreciates your style, and vice versa) and give each other feedback and support. Sometimes building worlds inside your head can be exhilarating, and other times it is rather lonely—finding a balance between solitary and social will allow you a sustainable and much more satisfying writing practice.

Remember: you don’t have anything to prove.
We are all born storytellers, and because each of us has a unique way of looking at the world, we each have the potential to come up with a story no one else could tell. You don’t become a writer only when you’ve seen your work in print; you’re a writer the moment you commit to the story you need to tell.

 

For more tips and frank talk on the writing life, check out my blog entries tagged “useful writing posts.” I’d love to hear your suggestions for future entries!

 

1 Comment to Tips for Better Fiction, part 2

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    April 15, 2014 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I think “who cares” is one of the most important questions. If you story has already been written then it is not going to have any impact (whatever that may be) on the readers, and what’s the point of writing if you are not going to leave some sort of impact?

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.