There are many different genres and writing styles and everybody has a unique author voice.
But when doing creative writing for fiction books, there are a number of universal rules that can help guide you through your story writing process.
These top 10 writing tips and tricks can improve the structure and readability of your work, helping you to stand out when trying to win writing competitions and get your book published. While there’s loads of writing advice available from many sources, these are the ones that have helped me the most.
We all know that to become a great writer take a lot of practice. But if we can improve the quality of that practice, then we establish better writing habits earlier. We make our writing more effective and increase our chances of getting published.
The number one tip to make you a better writer is to plan your work. This involves writing out your ideas, deciding where your story is going, the twists and turns and how it will end.
When will you introduce each character? Generally, there should be a clear goal that your main protagonist consistently work towards throughout your story, overcoming ever increasing jeopardy or obstacles to do so. All while trying to keep the focus on one to three protagonists.
You can find many examples of how to plot your book on the internet. Personally, I like to put a full plan together using a template which describes all characters, locations and story arc. Then I write a full first draft of my novel and short stories, before going back and editing my entire book at the end. I find this writing style easier to include key plot points, character development, revealing clues and building towards a known ending.
There are many personal choices to be made when writing a book, but the key things I include in my own plans are:
Will your main character be asked to take on a challenge? Or will one arise from their surroundings and interactions with other characters? How many times will they seemingly fail before finally achieving their goal?
We’ll touch on some of these writing tips further in this list.
Possibly the most common piece of writing advice for new authors. Rather than simply stating that your character felt something, show it instead.
Don’t say they were sad or angry, show them being sad or angry. Achieve this through what they say, their habits, their body language.
Don’t switch points of view within a chapter as this will usually confuse the reader. If you need to show another character’s feeling or reactions then do this through dialogue or observation. For example, you can describe how their face is reacting to the story events.
Do this early in your story. Describe what your character looks like. Describe their environment, the world around them, the other characters they meet. Put a picture in the mind of the reader. I like to do this as close to the start of a new story as possible, or early on in a new chapter if introducing a new character.
In my writing guide, you can find more detailed information on how to describe people in your stories.
Another common piece of advice for authors is to make sure you aren’t just writing for the eyes. To really immerse your readers in your story you need to describe how things smell and taste, what they feel like and how they sound.
Agents, publishers and readers don’t want to hear the same old stale descriptions and associations that have been used a million times before. No matter how great an idea, plot or description is – if you have simply replicated it without adding your own unique stamp then your book will be unsaleable. Too familiar.
Come up with fresh ideas. You can even play with common expectations by seemingly following a formula, but suddenly introduce something completely unexpected. A character or plot twist that nobody could predict. This is what makes your story stand out and creates memorable stories and characters.
Writing in a passive voice is a personal bad habit of mine, but one I have got better at avoiding through many hours of practice. You want to be writing about what is happening now, in real time.
There are a number of control measures, or writing rules if you will, that I employ to try and keep my storytelling as professional and readable as possible. The easier it is to read then the easier it is for the reader to immerse themselves in your writing, and the more they will enjoy your book.
You don’t need to describe the same thing in two different ways to get your point across. For example, ‘It was heavy. She couldn’t lift it off the floor.’ The same thing said twice. State it once in an interesting way, possible using a simile.
On the same note, I personally try not to use double adjectives very often. And I never use three adjectives. I like to pick out the key feature of an object, person or location and use that as the main descriptor. Then add greater detail by using the other senses to set the scene.
Bonus Tip: You can make your story unique and interesting by choosing nouns that are used less frequently, or adding items into a room that aren’t usually described or perhaps even expected to be there. Chairs, tables and doors are boring. But pinball machines, wolf-pelt rugs and neon jukeboxes are interesting.
It’s tempting to finish writing your story, celebrate the victory and call it done. I mean, who wants to trawl back through the entire thing, scouring every chapter, sentence and word for weaknesses. Spending hours deliberating over the perfect way to say even the smallest thing. Yet, as professional writers, this what we must do.
Writing a book is difficult. Nobody gets it right on the first draft (or my second, or third, or fourth…). Revise your first draft. Have another pair of eyes look it over. Perhaps even employ professional editorial services for expert feedback and constructive advice.
I hope you’ve found these writing tips useful, whatever your style.
Aaron Mullins is an award winning, internationally published psychologist. He started Birdtree Books Publishing where he worked as Editor-in-Chief, gaining media recognition and partnering with World Reader Charity before moving on to new ventures. He also taught academic writing at Coventry University. As a fiction author he’s known for exploring the darker side of psychology in his work. He also creates business guides for entrepreneurs and writing guides for fellow authors.