Monday, December 16, 2013

Fiction Writing Tips

I'm constantly adding to my list of writing tips as I attend conferences and workshops. What works for another writer may not work for me, but I'm willing to try anything to make the process smoother and my writing better.

Here are some tips that have worked for me – in no special order:
  1. You don't have to be in the mood or wait to be inspired. Just sit down and start writing. Even if it's not good, there might be something you can use later.
  2. If the middle starts to sag, put your character in a situation that appears impossible to get out of. Then have fun making it work.
  3. Employ all of the senses, but don't feel that you have to do that in every scene. It should come natural and give your readers the feeling of "being there" without sounding forced.
  4. Add enough description to give the readers a mental picture but not so much that it bogs down the story.
  5. Write the first draft as quickly as possible. Then take time to polish and finesse your characters and scenes.
  6. Don't be afraid to delete a scene that doesn't work because if you don't do it, your editor will.
  7. Get to know your characters before you write the book. Even if you don't use all of the information in the story, you'll be able to show motivation for their actions without it coming across contrived.
  8. Use language that is easily understood by most readers. If you feel the urge to write longer words, make sure the meaning is clear in the context of the sentence.
  9. Read as much as possible. Most good writers are also avid readers. Don't limit yourself to just one genre. If you're a romance writer, read mysteries, westerns, or speculative fiction.
  10. When you are writing a long section of dialogue or an extremely active scene, read it aloud to check for flow and pacing.
  11. Give yourself some time away from the computer, or you run the risk of burning out.
  12. Be prepared for long periods of alone time, but when you are able to, get together with friends and family. Becoming a hermit isn't good for you.
  13. Stay as healthy as possible. I like to eat healthy food with an occasional indulgence and do at least a half hour of exercise everyday.
  14. All writers deal with a certain amount of self-doubt—even successful, established authors. When this happens to you, use it to make your writing better. In other words, never wallow in doubt, but you also don't want to sit back and bask in your own brilliance.
  15. Write something everyday. Even if it's just a paragraph, it keeps the story fresh in your mind.
  16. Submit your manuscript to editors or agents. Then wait. And wait. And wait a little longer. Don't call them two or three weeks after submitting and expect an answer. Remember that editors and agents have mountains of manuscripts (and other work) on their desks, and they do the best they can to get through the submissions. It's always a good idea to start working on your next project, in case they want to see more.
Now I'd like to hear from other writers. What are some tips you'd like to share?

Speaking of sharing, now I'd like to share some pictures from the last ACFW Conference with a couple of my favorite authors.
Lena Nelson Dooley and me (Debby Mayne)

Martha Rogers and me
I hope y'all have a blessed Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!


Lena Nelson Dooley said...

What fun pictures. We cleaned up really well, didn't we?

And we had so much fun.

Debby Mayne said...

Lena, you always glow! And yes, we had a blast!

Cherie Burbach said...

Fun pictures! Plus, I loved #4 on the list. Good tips!

Martha W. Rogers said...

Great tips, Debbie. Ones I need to use. You are one of my favorite people. Just seeing your smile when we meet brings joy to my heart. I love your books,too. :)

Martha W. Rogers said...

By the way, after DiAnne Mills and Kathleen Y'Barbo, Lena was one of the first authors I got to know. We picked her up at the airport for the first ACFW area conference back in the early 2000's. She's been a great encouragement ever since.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Thank you, Martha. That was a very pivotal meeting for me, too. You've made a positive impact on my writing life as well as being a good friend.

Di said...

Love those pictures. Y'all are just as beautiful on the outside and you are on the inside. Can't wait to see you in St. Louis.

Thanks for that great list of tips. My favorite tip is to join ACFW. Meeting other authors, the editors and agents is invigorating and a step forward in the process of becoming a published author.

Merry Christmas!

Debby Mayne said...

Great suggestion, Diane! Any writer who is serious about a career should join a professional organization, and ACFW is the best!

Darrel Nelson said...

One additional writing tip that I find helpful is to have a trusted sounding board--someone you can get feedback regarding your ideas and writing. In my case, my sounding board is my wife. I never commit anything to final form until I get her take on it. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Debby Mayne said...

Excellent tip, Darrel!

Bruce Hennigan said...

Wonderful tips. Especially stay healthy. I’m suffering from a herniated disc in my neck and it has severely limited my time at the keyboard! And, I’m not that good at writing through dictation! But, here are some additional tips that have helped me:

You don’t FIND time to write — you MAKE time to write. Carve out very specific time out each day/week to write. And then, WRITE! Don’t check email or edit or update social media or make phone calls. Fill up that big white page in front of you.

Set deadlines (which most of us have hopefully mastered) for initial drafts, editing time, research, etc.

Set aside an area for your writing that is yours and YOURS alone and then surround yourself with creative cues — items or sayings or posters that spark your creativity. I call it my creative cocoon.

Use a timer to take a break during your long writing sessions. I use an old fashion kitchen timer and when I have a day long writing/editing session I make sure I take a ten minute break out of every hour — NO MATTER how well the creative juices are flowing. Get up, walk around, go outside, MOVE!

And, as I am learning the hard way, pay attention to ergonomics and take care of your hands, wrists, eyes, and, your neck! As a radiologist, I interpret dozens of MRIs every day. We are seeing an epidemic of herniate discs in the neck in younger and younger people because of constantly shifting our attention from the keyboard to the screen.

Thanks for the tips and I look forward to seeing some tips from the other authors! Great stuff! Have a MERRY (MIGHTY) CHRISTMAS. (See Ace Collins’ excellent book on the source of Christmas songs and traditions and read about ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ — necessary reading for any writer!)

Debby Mayne said...

Wow! Thank you so much for your great tips, Bruce!