Essential Fiction Writing Tip: Story First

Essential Fiction Writing Tip: Story First

I’ve received some questions about fiction writing from new authors. Here’s the thing. In fiction, worry about the story first. You can sort everything else out later. Please don’t try to edit first.

Write first, edit later

I’m currently completing the final scenes in a romantic suspense novel. I adore the two main characters, so I’ve decided to create a series of three novels about them.

This means that a bunch of scenes — around seven, from memory — don’t belong in this book. I’ve moved them into book two of the series. They’ll wait there, until I’m ready.

It’s tempting to edit as you go. However, you’ll often find yourself in a situation where a few scenes become irrelevant, as in my situation. I need to write a whole new bunch of scenes so that the climax and ending fit my new writing goals.

That’s the primary reason you edit LATER — the scenes you’re sweating over may be deleted.

Your story always comes first

New authors tend to rewrite early chapters. That’s pointless. Nine times out of ten, you won’t even use the first few scenes of your novel. You’ll start the story later, or you’ll decide that you want to add something or other, and need to rework the first scenes.

Until you’ve got the STORY down, and have finished your first draft, there’s no point in rewriting, or editing.

Put stuff in, if it’s SHORT

I encourage my students to write their first drafts straight through. But what happens if you get an idea for something, and you want to add it to earlier scenes right now? Put it in, if it’s short.

In my romantic suspense, I came up with a cute McGuffin. I needed to write about it in my current scene. So I went back and added it to the first scene immediately, and mentioned in three more scenes.

Here’s why. I wasn’t sure how to play it. It was just an idea, and I wanted to see how (and if) it worked. It did. So I wrote a few hundred words, then went back to the scene I was working on when I got the idea.

If I’d had an idea for a completely new character, or an event, I would have made a note, and added it in the second draft. My McGuffin was short. Writing it took less than half an hour, and adding it didn’t disturb my forward momentum.

In your first draft, momentum is everything. If you linger, you may lose the thread of your story. Chaos and migraines ensure. Keep going — get the story down.

As a rule of thumb, you can add stuff in a first draft, if it’s immediately relevant, very short, and easy to add.

To repeat: EDIT LATER. 🙂

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

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Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →
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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.