Writings: Basic Fiction Writing Tips by Beth Bowser

Simple tips on writing I have read/discovered/learned and always think on when I am going through revisions on my work Basic Fiction Writing Tips Click here for a printer friendly version of this page

I must preface this by saying that these are very basic tips. If you are already a published author, that's freaking amazing you found my site, but you likely won't learn anything from me :) These tips are for the beginning writers to keep at it when you may get useless advise and it's dragging you down and maybe making you want to give up. I wanted to give up previously and I'm sure that feeling will cross my mind again in the future. Try to press on. There is only one of you, one brain that came up with your story, and that's all the originality needed to write an book! The following is only 5 tips for easy digestion!

1. Write, write and write more! It sounds so simple and it is! Stop yourself from thinking your writing isn't good enough. You are correct, it isn't good enough to publish immediately. You have to start somewhere and you have to give yourself permission to write badly. How else can you learn and change? My suggestion is to write a simply as you can, see spot run style even. Editing and re-writing and multiple drafts is where your words shine, but you aren't doing that yet so don't even bother yourself with it. Just get your story out! Even if you still feel embarrassed and don't want anyone to read it yet, write it. Get a whole novel out if you can. In my opinion, completing your story is the hardest part. Don't stress over word choice, not yet. J.K. Rowling and other YA authors get criticized frequently for their constant use of adverbs, "said" in all dialog, and other simple verbs, but it didn't stop them and it will not stop you either. Write!

2. Write what you know. I'm sure that to you, that is an old trite saying you've heard and read too many times before. Since I am not a fairy, nor a princess and definitely not from the planet Horogliam, should scrap my whole novel idea? No! It's fiction so you do not need to have experienced the setting previously, nor the characters, nor even the physics of the world you are writing of. What you should have experienced previously are most if not all of the major plot points in the story. Does an important character die in the story? Maybe the princess's father? Your best bet to make a death scene weepy for the readers, is to write from the heart. Put yourself in the past where you can think of or remember exactly how you felt when your father or uncle or pet passed away. Good writing is not just being able to use a thesaurus, it's also being able to transport your readers to an experience you had. So, yes, write what you know! (or have experienced)

3. Write short sentences. Us authors tend to sometimes write run on sentences as if there is a prize for including the most words in a sentence. There isn't, sorry to say! In fact, everything reads much better when you have fewer words. Consider the sentence mentioned above about the fairy princess. It's a long and exhausting to read. That sentence would not pass muster by an editor. However, It depends on what you, the author are trying to evoke in your writing. I was attempting to include a silly example of how you often cannot experience some things you may write about. The simplest way to making sure your sentences are not too long is to avoid using commas. Turn every comma into a period. This helps removing run-on sentences and also assists in cutting out fragments.

4. Show don't tell. Yes, another lame writing tip. Sigh right? No! I understand that just saying something means nothing if you aren't told WHY! To explain, "show" means like write the scene. Flesh out the why. Rather than "tell". To tell is to write something such as he/she felt "emotion". To do this try to cut out all emotions in your writing. If you are writing a scary scene, make sure your text does NOT include the words "scared" or "fearful" or "terrified". Maybe this character's eyes widened or darted around or perhaps their breathing changed to quick pants. Similarly with happiness. He felt happy. His smile took on the sun in radiance. His open and friendly face invited everyone to stop and chat for a moment. The corners of his eyes crinkled when he noticed his mother in the crowd of disembarked airline passengers. There's so much you can do to show the character's emotions rather than just telling the reader how they felt. Put yourself, in a mental exercise, in the situation you are writing and capture what changed to your own body.

5. Use as few adverbs as you can. I also have made this mistake often. Adverbs fit into how we naturally speak so don't feel bad if you find yourself using them in writing, but they are a crutch in writing and introduce both passive voice and showing rather that telling. Too many adverbs also are considered some editors' pet peeve and "lazy" writing and we want happy editors! I could have said in tip 4 above that he smiled widely(adverb) rather than his smile took on the sun in radiance. They both give the same idea, but my version was stronger and evokes the happiness more than just "widely" right? Convert adverbs to verbs when you can. Adverbs are often passive. Having a combined action(verb) and an adjective dumbs it down to just the adjective. When you add action to your writing, you are adding the action to the reader. It's more likely that the reader will connect more with your writing, might be able to place themselves with your character and feel the same emotions!