Fiction; the word gives me goose bumps. It embodies creativity, imagination, and the many facets of the human experience. It’s light and dark. It’s fun and frustrating. Best of all, experts (like Writer’s Digest) agree it has no set rules. You might say the number one rule of fiction writing is there are no rules, or at least none that cannot be broken.
Fiction writing offers unparalleled freedom. The only limit is the author’s imagination. For the most part, there are no set word counts to meet. There are no sales pitches to weave in like copywriting. One goal is forthright in the writer’s mind: Tell the story. Although fiction is synonymous with creative freedom, there are guidelines every author should follow.
Passion Trumps Everything
Beginning writers often make a deadly literary mistake. They strive to write whatever is popular versus what excites them. In the business of self-publishing, passion is everything. It will set you apart from the thousands of e-books published every day.
You don’t have to limit your writing to trends. You don’t have to limit anything. You can expand into any genre. You can tell any story. The key ingredient is passion. It will be what captures readers and brings them back for more.
The Writing Process Matters
Authors are artists, and they are often thought of as eccentric, disorganized creators. While many of us are a touch crazy, we are some of the most organized people on the planet when it comes to the writing process.
The writing process is fluid. Experienced authors move through it with ease, adapting it to fit their strengths and improve their weaknesses. Inexperienced writers benefit from the raw structure of it. It looks something like this:
- Prewriting: Put on your thinking cap, dawn your inventor’s coat, and churn up a brainstorm! There’s no wrong way to prewrite. Some draw scenes. Some, like JK Rowling, scribble on napkins. Prewriting is all about getting the raw idea onto paper and seeing where it takes you.
- Rough Draft: Sometimes referred to as a sloppy copy, the rough draft is the start of the manuscript. It’s written with little regard for convention. All that matters is getting a tangible, semi-organized draft written.
- Proofread: Once the first draft is complete, it’s customary to take a break. Give the brain and the imagination time to rest, but don’t rest for too long. Get back to the rough draft and proofread. You’re looking for sensibility and flow. You’re also doing inventory to determine whether the draft does what it needs to do. Is it complete? Is it missing something? Don’t be afraid to read it aloud. It’s a great way to catch word traps that might boggle and discourage your eventual readers.
- Share: Once you’ve proofread, it’s time to do something scary. It’s time to share your work with a trusted reader. I’m not talking about releasing your manuscript to the masses. I’m talking about handing a copy to a trusted and coveted reader, someone who isn’t afraid to tell you his or her opinion in a constructive manner.
- Revise: Armed with the feedback of your trusted reader, it’s time to revise. The goal is to improve your current manuscript, making it the best possible version of itself. The product should be the book you’re almost ready to publish.
- Edit: Your manuscript is creatively complete. Now it’s time to take a magnifying glass to mechanics and spelling. This is when you need an editor. The fresh eyes of an experienced editor are invaluable. They can even help with final formatting and file conversion.
- Final Draft: Once your manuscript is back from the editor, it’s time for one final read through. It’s a moment to savor. Remove yourself as the writer, place yourself in the shoes of the reader, and melt into your story for one last look.
- Publish: If you’re happy with your final draft, it’s time to publish. Two of the most popular self-publishing platforms you should distribute your book to include Smashwords and Kindle.
Take It Seriously
Writing is hard work. It’s merciless, and it can feel like the lash of a slave driver. Beginning writers sometimes feel guilty as they work diligently at something for which they don’t receive a cent. Friends and family can enhance this feeling, especially if they start spouting comments like, “It’s just a stupid hobby.” You can’t control them, but you can control you.
Take your writing seriously. Treat it as the profession it is and don’t let the words or actions of others tear you down. You will only be taken seriously as an author if you take yourself seriously.
Be a True Writing Professional
Fiction writing can be a hobby, but it can also be a professional career. If you expect to make it a career, treat it as a profession. You’ll need goals and a schedule. You’ll need to look beyond the writing process to promotion and marketing.
Writing isn’t easy. Self-publishing isn’t a breeze. But it’s all worth it if you persevere.
Feature Image Credit: Solarseven via 123RF Stock Photo
4 thoughts on “Fiction Writing Rule #1”
A great overview of crafting a story. I’m completely with you about passion — that comes through nice and clearly with the writers who completely love what they do. Ray Bradbury comes as the obvious example, as his love is obvious in his stories.
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Passionless writing is like a car salesman; forceful, awkward, and a turn off. Writing is not a craft you can excel at if you’re all about trends and sales, but that’s just my opinion.
I like this write up.
Thank you! I spent far more time than I probably should have nitpicking it since it was my debut post here. You just made it worth it. 🙂