There’s always more to learn about writing great fiction. All novelists want to end up with a book that will move our readers. It’s a constant search for that one thing that will make folks love your stories.
Even seemingly small things can make a big difference in the final draft of your novel. And some things you might not think will have an impact on your writing are often what you should explore.
Here are 5 things you may need more of to put the most into your fiction.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a plotter or a pantser, you still must do some preparation for your novel. This applies to any genre. Of course, historical projects will take a greater amount of your prep time in research, interviews, etc. But there are more ways to prep for your writing:
Get your writing space ready. Seems elementary, but believe me, it helps. Clear your desk of other distractions and then surround it with items that might inspire you. I always keep photos of likenesses for what I imagine my characters to look like.
Gather all the books you have on subject matter in your story. Familiarize yourself with phrases, attitudes, and trivia about topics or personalities that will be in your book.
Have a thesaurus handy, whether a physical book or online.
Complete any interviews you feel may be helpful and keep notes within reach. Also have your research file (a whole other blog post topic) nearby to refer to. Don’t depend on your memory.
Look for podcasts that relate to your topic or characters and take notes to have handy when you begin. Example: For my novel Heaven’s Sky, I watched YouTube videos on the dust bowl and took notes.
Take a gander at your calendar. Be realistic about picking days/hours you can write and pencil them in…no, ink them in.
Your readers want an emotional experience from reading your book. There are methods to make emotional impact in your writing. The most effective way is to write through the eyes of your point of view character in such a way that the character is actually telling the story, not you as the author. By knowing your character well before you start writing, you will be able to translate their feelings, experiences, and personality onto the page. Not that you have to write in first person, just that you are seeing what’s going on in the scene through their eyes.
The room was dark and it scared her. She wondered if this would end up just like the night she was attacked. It was so still in the space where she stood, she knew it was a warning. Her eyes were so dry, she had to blink hard. She couldn’t believe this was happening again.
OR in deep POV
The dark room make her skin crawl, much like the night she was attacked. The same eerie stillness was like a flashing light of warning. She blinked away the dryness in her eyes, desperate to see clearly. This can’t be happening again.
Which one makes you feel the character’s feeling?
Yes, you must cut all those unnecessary words – the ones that will make your reader stumble and takes them out of the story. As in the example above, the story can best be told without too many filter words that distract your reader. You want them to FEEL, not just read about the action in the scene. When you go through your second draft, read your manuscript aloud to see if you can cut some words, phrases, or even paragraphs to sharpen the impact for your readers.
I always tell the people who attend my workshops that setting is a place for your character to bounce life off of. Without setting, your character has no place to be. Without a rich setting, your character lacks valuable tools to express themselves, foreshadow, reveal their past, and much more.
Example from my novel, Heaven’s Sky:
“She hated intruding on his moment but couldn’t take her eyes off the image before her. The shifting brown haze in the distance shrouded the horizon, the perfect backdrop for Frank’s stagnant silhouette. The dirt and wind hounded them daily, taking life from the trees, the wheat, and stripping the landscape of its once green splendor. The brown haze hung over her heart too, more often these last months, as if to warn her of pain to come.”
Use setting to enhance emotion and ground the reader.
It takes courage to try new things, put yourself out there, and expose your work to critique. You will find that writing fiction, excellent fiction, is hard work and often very humbling. Keep going and pushing yourself to grow in the craft. It’s a journey that will take perseverance, fortitude, and…..well, courage! Don’t give up.
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