Top 10 Writing Tips

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 top 10 writing tips 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.

Top 10 Writing Tips

1) Writing Plan, Purpose and Style

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.

Plots, Subplots and Plot Twists

There are many personal choices to be made when writing a book, but the key things I include in my own plans are:

  • Don’t have too many characters: 1-3 perspectives is enough
  • Have one clear overall goal that your main character works towards
  • Put the main challenge in early, resolve it at the very end
  • Ensure there are almost impossible to overcome obstacles
  • Write in either first person (I, we) or third person (she, name)
  • If writing in first person, develop a unique character voice
  • If you write something that doesn’t advance the plot, delete it

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.

2) Writing Tip: Show, Don’t Tell

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 tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov

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.

3) Writing Character Perspectives

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.

4) Creating a Story World for Readers

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.

Aaron Mullins Advice Help Support Writers
Build a Vibrant Story World

In my writing guide, you can find more detailed information on how to describe people in your stories.

5) Write for All the Senses

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.

6) Don’t Use Cliches in Your Story

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.

Top 10 Writing Tips Authors Writers Resources Guides

7) Remove Passive Voice From Your Writing

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.

8) Word Controls to Improve Your Writing

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.

  • Use adverbs carefully (see what I did there) – some well-known authors (I’m looking at you Stephen King) hate using adverbs (words ending in -ly). However, I would advocate that if used sparingly they can add emphasis to actions. But try not to over-use them. Instead, try to describe actions or preceding events in such as way that you no longer require the use of adverbs, as the story tells itself. For example, angry dialogue preceding a character leaving a room. You don’t need to state that the door was slammed violently, as we can already tell how it was done. For the same reasons, do you really need to use exclamation marks?
  • Passive verbs: Some verbs lend themselves to the bad habit of writing in a passive voice, these are usually ‘was, were, been, being, to be, is, am, are’. Consider changing these to more immediate word choices to keep your reader engrossed in your story. For example, swap ‘she was running’ for ‘she ran’.
  • Be explicit in your writing. Don’t use vague words, such as ‘very’ or ‘thing’. For example, instead of saying something was ‘very big’ say it was ‘huge’ or ‘larger than a lion’s yawn’ – you get the idea. Along the same lines, replace the word ‘some’ and all words that start with ‘some-‘ with more specific descriptions.
  • Don’t start sentences with leading words, unless it is part of your character’s unique voice. Instead, just jump directly into what you want to say. Again, these are vague words, such as ‘often’.

Top 10 Writing Tips Writers Resources Authors

9) Trust the Reader to Understand Your Story

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.

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” — Stephen King

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.

10) Edit Your Story Then Publish Your Book

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.

Find more guidance and support to become the best writer you can be in How to Write Fiction: A Creative Writing Guide for Authors by bestselling author Dr Aaron Mullins.

Featuring  detailed insight into how to use the secret art of euphonics to unleash the power of psychology in your work. Designed to guide you through your complete story journey and achieve success with your writing!

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Aaron Mullins (@DrAaronMullins) is an award winning, internationally published psychologist and Amazon bestselling author. Aaron has over 15 years experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. He started Birdtree Books Publishing where he worked as Editor-in-Chief, partnered with World Reader Charity and taught Academic Writing at Coventry University. Aaron’s book How to Write Fiction: A Creative Writing Guide for Authors has become a staple reference book for writers and those interested in a publishing career. Find out more.

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