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If you’ve got a knack for creative writing or were just the star of your English class, you might just have the makings of a fiction writer. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a best-selling book idea since forever, or want to cook up a mystery thriller that just might make you rich someday; you can walk through five key steps to ace your first try at writing fiction.
Writing fiction is a messy and chaotic process; it almost never follows in a single order, so you may have to go over it again and make necessary changes. The most important thing about acing your first attempt is that you make it good enough to want to work on it again. Otherwise, you might get a wrong start, which will lead your story in an entirely different direction. To make sure you know how to write what you’re writing, we prepared this helpful guide.
Step 1: Understand The Process
Before you get into a frenzy and start writing away like crazy, you have to know that the process of writing fiction isn’t smooth. In fact, it’s exceptionally rare for writers to have it all figured out. It’s very common for many writers to write one version and improve it consistently while adding better details.
Keep All Your Ideas; Stick To One
It doesn’t matter how many amazing ideas you have because your fiction novel only has room for one plot. Nevertheless, it’s great to have a list of all your ideas. If you’re torn between different ideas, try opting for a storyline or idea that you know more about. After all, even if it’s fiction, it’ll need plenty of research. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy research, it can take a lot of time and be tiring. Hence, always start out with the idea you know most about.
Think of a Premise
Think of a plot that your story will surround. This will help you avoid loopholes, and you won’t get the creator’s block when thinking of a ‘reason’ as to why things happen in your story. Sure, you can start writing and figuring it out as you go, and even though that might lay out a story for you, it won’t be your best work.
Step 2: Know Your Story
It’s crucial that you know what your story is. If all the details about it are jumbled up and you’re having a hard time organizing them, try finding the answers to the following questions.
- What is the underlying cause behind the story’s main events?
- Who will your story’s characters be? It is a version of yourself or someone else, or maybe someone completely new? Either way, you should outline the character to get rid of any possible flaws (details that don’t add up). Is there a protagonist and an antagonist, or something more complex?
- What’s the ending? Or if you haven’t planned out an ending, do you know if it’ll be happy or end on a suspenseful note? Do you want to leave your readers satisfied or dying with curiosity?
- What turn of events, conflicts, and events will bring your characters to the endpoint? This will be the content in-between the beginning and the ending. This should also include the turning point or climax when things of the plot start coming together. Initially, you should only make notes about the order in which these events happen.
- What era is the story set in? Where do the characters live? Is it in the future, the past, or something more present? Being consistent with this aspect is crucial, so make notes about this. You can research the era if it’s sometime in the past, picking out which real-life events will have an impact on your story. If it’s set in the future, make sure that they align with current events to a certain extent. If you’re creating a world where a certain event didn’t take place, make sure to mention it in a certain way.
Step 3: Start Writing
Unlike recording an actual event or writing a memoir, writing a fictional story is vastly different because it requires that you know the story so well that you’ve created an entire universe about it in your mind.
So before you kickstart the writing process, you need to have thought out the events of your story and how it’ll play out. Let’s say you’re writing a mystery thriller. Ideally, you’ll want to revise and go over it enough times, so you have a clear idea of how that imaginary world works.
Eventually, the time will come when you have to start writing, and this part is difficult because most fiction writers aren’t pleased with the way their story’s beginnings initially turn out. And if you’re procrastinating too much, break the cycle before you end up never getting around to writing that book.
Set Aside Writing Time
More importantly, you’ll want to ensure that you write during a specific period of the day when you’ve set aside all other distractions. This is when you’ll think deeply about the plot and write them down, so it seems like a flawless narrative.
‘Do I Always Start From the Beginning?’
It’s always best to start writing from where your story begins, but if there’s a scene that comes to your mind much clearly, you can start off with that. You can arrange it with the rest of your story once you’re done, but what this essentially does is allow you to add one point in your story’s timeline. Now, you can write and add other events that surround it, eventually completing your story piece by piece.
This Won’t Be Your Final Manuscript
Keep in mind that your first attempt will not bear the results you were hoping for; those will only come eventually with proper polishing. Having exceedingly high expectations from your first attempt would be unreasonable; instead, set aside time to keep coming back and writing more of your story, and expect yourself to improve it a little more each time.
Step 4: Keep Writing – Don’t Stop
The biggest reason for millions of unpublished stories is that, when started, they’re never finished. The only way you’ll ever get around to finishing your book is to make the decision of wanting to finish it. To live up to this, keep daily reminders on your phone. This will help you remember that it’s time for you to sit down and start writing.
Make sure you spend at least a half-hour writing daily. Even if you don’t get around to writing much, you’ll still give yourself time to think about the story and develop scenes more clearly by playing them out in your mind.
‘What If I Have Writers’ Block?’
This is normal – you can only have so much inspiration to derive valuable content from. Nonetheless, make sure you write a single sentence, which will act as your placeholder until you come up with something better. For example, let’s say you want to write about an epic confrontation between your protagonist and the antagonist. If you can’t find the words to make it seem thrilling, write it anyway. That way, you’ll have something to improve.
‘Is It Enough to Just Write a Little Bit Every Day?’
You can always set out a weekend or two to completely lock yourself in and write your story, but other than that, writing a little bit every day is the best way to go. Think of it this way; if you manage to write a single page every day, then by the end of a month, you’ll have written a good 10,000 words or more.
Step 5: Polish and Repeat
Polishing your work and improving it will take the most time because your finished book will never seem perfect or complete at the first attempt. Once you write your fiction novel, leave it for a couple of days. Then, come back to it and read it again; hitting the refresh button on your mind will help you figure out what aspects need improvement and change.
While polishing it, start by looking for grammatical and spelling errors, as well as checking that all the events are in the right order. Moreover, look out for errors such as when you use the name of the wrong character.
Most importantly, you need to find continuity errors and correct them. These are basically sloppy writing, like when you write that a character leaves a certain object at home, but it magically reappears in their backpack in the next chapter.
In addition, getting someone else to go through your book will help you find out which places lack a seamless flow, i.e. your meaning, as a writer, aren’t clear enough to the reader.This is only how you’ll get past your first attempt at writing fiction, there will be many more ahead, and this first experience will help you write an even better story the next time. Regardless of whether or not you feel like you ‘aced’ your first attempt, you shouldn’t stop writing and improving your story-telling abilities.