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5 Tips for Fiction Writers

This article was very kindly supplied by Author, Mentor, Editor, and writing and manuscript development consultant – Dianne Matich –

  1. “The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway
    The function of your first draft is to get the whole story out of your head and down on to paper (or computer). Don’t stop to edit! Your first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect. The next thousand and one drafts are when you will take your “crappy draft” and carefully transform it into something beautiful. Don’t be surprised to find that your finished story is very different from where you originally started. A writer’s journey is always full of surprises.
  2. Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire
    A plot is not a casual chain of events, but rather a related series of escalating trials a character must move through. Each one more difficult than the previous. By suffering these consequences, your character will be evolving into something new. Reading Recommendation: Novelist’s Essential Guide to Creating Plot, by J. Madison Davis.
  3. Curb Appeal
    Your first five pages are your prime real estate. It’s where you either hook or lose a potential reader. These precious spaces should always include these three things:

    • The very first line must hook the reader.
      The best way to do that is by creating a question in the reader ‘s mind which encourages them to read further to find the answer. Example: “I am running.” – Jerry Spinelli’s (Newberry Medalist)
      Hook: Why is the character running?
    • Voice is another important element in fiction writing.
      No matter how good your story may be, without the right voice it will fail. A voice must be strong, unique, consistent and authentic to draw the reader in. Pay special attention to the protagonist’s voice in books you love to read. Listen to conversations in real life. How do people speak? Complete sentences/words, slang, accents, etc.
    • Set up the opening scene by providing action and dialogue.
      Do not interrupt your first scene with back story. It’s like putting a speed bump which will immediately slow down the pace. Reading Recommendation: Hooked, by .Les Edgerton
  4. When One Door Closes, A Window Opens
    Imagine if Dorothy never followed the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz story. What if Harry Potter didn’t travel to Hogwarts, but stayed at home. Character agency is what your hero does to get themselves out of trouble. What they say and do will create the narrative, push the plot forward. Without agency, the protagonist becomes a passive prop of the story which is boring!
  5. The Suspense is Killing Me!
    Every story needs two levels of struggles. The first is the internal battle that rages inside the protagonist. For example, their belief system, a flaw, a weakness that hinders their actions to achieve their goal. The second is the external obstacles that prohibits them from moving forward. Escalating tensions is what entices your reader to keep reading to find out what happens next.

Learning about the craft of writing will help you write better stories with hopefully, less sweat and tears. To learn more about the craft of writing and how to improve your story, contact Dianne at


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