Writing Tips From Fiction Authors

Tip1: “My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay your hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.” — Michael Moorcock

Tip 2: “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” — Zadie Smith

Tip 3: “Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.” — Michael Moorcock

Tip 4: “In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.” — Rose Tremain

Tip 5: “Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” — Will Self

Tip 6: “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” — Jonathan Franzen

“Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.” — Zadie Smith

Tip 7: “Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.” — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 8: “Read it aloud to yourself because that’s the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear).” — Diana Athill

Tip 9: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

Tip 10: “Listen to the criticisms and preferences of your trusted ‘first readers.'” — Rose Tremain

Tip 11: “Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.” — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 12: “Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there’s prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.” — Sarah Waters

Tip 13: “The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply.” — Will Self

Tip 14: “Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!” — Joyce Carol Oates

Tip 15: “The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.” — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 16: “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.” — Elmore Leonard

Tip 17: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” — Neil Gaiman

Tip 18: “You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.” — Will Self

Tip 19: “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” — Neil Gaiman

Tip 20: “The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’” — Helen Simpson

Setting the Stage

snoopySetting is such a crucial piece of a story. In order to have a great story, a writer must not only have dynamic characters, but a setting to put these characters in. All stories have some sort of setting, whether it is in an imaginary land full of mythical creatures or takes place during the 1800s. Setting helps paint a picture for the reader and initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story.

Setting is broadly defined as the location of the plot or where an event takes place. Setting is both the time and geographic location within a narrative or work of fiction. This includes region, geography, climate, buildings, and interiors.

Selecting an appropriate setting for your story must go beyond just you liking it. The behavior of fictional characters often depends on their environment. Setting sets the stage for what happens to your characters. Why does the character need to be there? What part does it play in your character’s journey or their past? Characters need to interact with the setting.

When building your setting, don’t do it all at once. World building should happen over the course of your entire novel, layered into every scene. The goal is to create a well-designed background for your characters without overwhelming the scene or interrupting the story. Carefully balance introducing readers to your world while maintaining plot. Let the setting unfold as the characters move through the scene. Build in elements of weather, lighting, the season, and time. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more than 3-4 paragraphs on setting at a time. Start with the bigger picture then zoom in on the details. Don’t try to include every tiny detail in your description. Focus on things your characters would notice, keeping in mind that different characters will see and interact with the scenery in different ways.

Help the reader picture themselves in the story. Include different senses when describing the setting. In real life, we explore and experience our surroundings through our senses. Through our experiences, we respond with an emotional reaction. Your characters need to do the same.

Utilize the internet and do research. Look up maps, tourist information, and photos of specific places you’d like to include in your setting. Gather information and use some of it when writing your description. If you are able, visit these places in person. It can add depth and flair to your writing.

For more information on setting, see the links below.

Writer’s Edit

Writer’s Digest

The Importance of Story Setting

Common Setting Mistakes

Writing World

Location, Location, Location

5 Simple Writing Tips


(image from https://thecostaricanews.com/top-tips-improve-writing-skills/)

As writers, we’re always looking for tips to improve our craft. Here are 5 simple tips that can give your writing that extra punch.

  1. Know your character’s unique view. How does he or she interact with the world around them? Write through that lens.
  2. You don’t need as many dialogue tags you think.
  3. Don’t forget visceral reactions. Readers want to feel your character’s emotions.
  4. Use figurative language.
  5. Read.  The more you read, the better writer you become.


How To Become a Better Writer

Image result for be a better writer

There is so much writing advice out there from people who claim to be experts. As writers, it’s sometimes hard to wade through the information and decide what’s important and what’s not.  Despite the endless pool of writing advice offered by everyone under the sun, one fact remains. Your ultimate goal is to become a better writer.

I’m sure you’ve read and heard a lot of advice about writing. Some advice is useful. Some, not so much. Over the years, I’ve taken all the advice I’ve accumulated and compiled a list that encompasses the six main things that seem to be consistent no matter who is offering advice.

  1. Invest in some reference books. Get a dictionary, thesaurus, and a book on basic grammar. Have them handy and use them.
  2. Expand your vocabulary. I’m not talking fancy, flowery words here. This is more about using the vocabulary you already have and expanding it. For example, how many synonyms can you come up with for the noun plan? There’s program, itinerary, scheme, design, blueprint, agenda, and outline to name a fewStop and think about other words or word combinations and insert them into your writing.
  3. Read. Reading expands your vocabulary and helps you see how words can be arranged to communicate subtleties or express emotions. Read books in your genre and books outside your genre. Listen to the sound of language as you read. Read critically and look upon all you read as a writing lesson.
  4. Take writing classes.  There are a lot of creative writing courses and various writing workshops you can find online or through your local adult education extension programs. Find a few and work to improve your writing.
  5. Make time to write. Choose a time and place, and just write. You can’t improve your writing if you don’t write.
  6. Write for yourself. Write a story that scratches an itch inside you.  Don’t write to please the masses, write to please yourself. If you aren’t fully vested in the story, you won’t survive the criticism that comes with all published work.

Developing an Author Platform

Author Platform : The Indie Author’s Holy Grail Or A Complete Waste Of Time?

So you’ve written your book, spent months revising and editing, and created an eye-catching cover. Now you’re ready to hit that publish button. But wait, how are you going to attract people to your book and get them to buy it?

The answer: develop an author platform.

But what exactly is an author platform?

A platform, simply put, is your visibility as an author. This includes social media outlets, a website, email, networks, and any other unique path you take to put yourself out there.

Building a platform it not about being the loudest self-promoter on the planet. It’s an ongoing process that allows you to stand out among other authors. The best way to do this is to focus on your audience, not on yourself. Your platform is about readership and audience development. It’s about offering new and interesting content. It’s about telling your story, a story that separates you from other writers. A powerful author platform represents an emotional connection between writer and reader.

To become a successful indie author, you have to actively work on building your platform. It takes time, but it is invaluable.

A successful author platform consists of many elements, including but not limited to:

  • A website
  • Focused, quality content, such as a blog or podcasts
  • Social media
  • Associations with writing groups and other authors (your network)
  • Speaking engagements and author appearances
  • Your email list

This foundation is important in productive platform building. As an author, you have to open the funnel and try to capture as many potential readers as possible. Figure out what works for you and what is sustainable then flow with it.

Start with content.

Content refers to print books, ebooks, your website, online courses, live webinars, magazine articles, blog posts, digital downloads, podcasts, videos, and events. Quantity can help you. The more content you have, the more options you have available.

There are many ways to attract new fans. One way is to consider offers people can easily say “yes” to. These might include:

  • giveaways
  • discounts
  • free e-books
  • the first book in a series
  • free workshops
  • free downloadable guides

Freeloaders will never pay for anything, but superfans will pay everything. Everyone else is at some level in between. Offering giveaways and discounts will attract readers from all ends of the spectrum, and could potentially lead to book sales.

If you’re short on content, join forces with other authors, preferably in your genre, to create bundles and box sets or collaborative blog posts.


Image result for author platform

(Image from Authors-Platform.com)

While we’re on the topic of blog posts, as an author, you should have an author website. However, your website should not be separate from your blog. Your blog needs to be part of your website. Your website is a central hub of information and a place for you to guide your readers. Lure them in with your blog.

Your website should have a clear identity that not only evokes who you are as an author, but also showcases your work.

Your website should include the following:

  • a page dedicated to all of your books
  • individual book pages that feature the cover, a brief description of the book, and purchase links
  • a mailing list sign up form
  • links to social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn, etc…)
  • about me author page (bio)
  • current blog posts

As far as your blog is concerned, develop a regular posting schedule and stick to it. Talk about what you love. Repurpose things you’ve shared on social media. Feature other writers or books. Be sure to include images that relate to your content. Engage with your audience and gain their attention.

You’ll have much more successful launches if you have an engaged audience. One of the best ways to get people to want to buy your books is to offer them sample sections. An alternative to providing samples is to create short stories or poems that are exclusive to your blog. When you have a book about to come out, show your appreciation by offering your readers a discount or some other promotion.

Along the same lines, set up a newsletter email list. Your email list primarily builds through your website. Offer ebook giveaways where readers have to give their email address to get the free book. Newsletters are much more successful, however, if you offer content other than just book promotion. Post something interesting at least once per month.

People want to hear from you. One of the best ways to do this is through social media. Start an account on each major social media network even if you’re not active on it. Be consistent in how you describe yourself across these accounts.

Social media is about showing up, day in and day out, and sharing who you are to your audience. Share something in your life you do creatively. Offer a snippet for free and include images. Share blog posts on topics of interest. Interact with your followers and comment on their posts. If social media overwhelms you, choose one or two social networks to focus on, and enjoy them.

An author platform isn’t just about establishing an online presence so people buy your books. It’s about making connections. Even though some people may not interact with you or like your posts, they are still watching and will support you.

A successful author platform is the combination of small efforts that are sustainable and purposeful. Build your body of work. Establish a website and an email newsletter. Look for collaborative opportunities and partnerships. Create a network and make connections. Always think about how to get new people in and how to move them to be loyal fans.

Most importantly, be patient. Your platform won’t build overnight; it takes time.