Tag Archives: writing tips

New NaNoWriMo Author? 3 Tips To Avoid Anxiety And Stress

New NaNoWriMo Author? 3 Tips To Avoid Anxiety And Stress

Happy days: you’ve decided to join the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) madness on November 1. You’re excited, eager, and not a little overwhelmed at the thought of plunging into writing some 1,600 words every day for 30 days.

(NaNoWriMo newbie? You’ll find NaNoWriMo details, and sign up info here.)

Perhaps you’re wondering whether you’re setting yourself up for stress in November, and are feeling anxious already. That’s completely normal. Here’s all you need to remember: take it day by day, and word by word, AND start preparing NOW.

Meeting your NaNoWriMo challenge: word by word, sentence by sentence

To help you to prepare, I’m creating daily “NaNoWriMo secrets” on Fab Freelance Writing’s new Facebook page until the end of the month. Be sure to Like the page, so that you receive the tips.

Now let’s look at some tips which will help you to avoid overwhelm.

1. Avoid focusing on words — focus on FEELINGS

As I said in this Facebook post, forget the words, focus on the feelings:

Your challenge while writing your novel is staying IN your novel: feeling the feelings you want to arouse in your reader. Keeping your inspiration, if you like. For each and every novel you write, the “feeling-state” will be different. When you lose that feeling-state it’s almost impossible to get it back.

Read the post, and create a mood board to help you to easily access your inspiration for your novel.

You’ll discover that when you put EMOTION first, your writing automatically improves. Keep reminding yourself that fiction is entertainment, so it’s all about the feelings, rather than the words.

Please be aware that if you don’t focus on feelings, rather than words, your novels just won’t sell.

2. Focus on real-time, right here, write now, writing — that is, write in SCENES

As I said in this post on writing in scenes (showing, rather than telling):

Over the past couple of years, I’ve received hundreds of questions about fiction from authors. Surprisingly enough, few of those questions concerned scenes, because few fiction authors (new or established) pay in sufficient attention to scenes.

When you do start paying attention, you’ll know that scenes turbo-charge your fiction. Write great scenes, and you’ll write excellent novels, novellas, and short stories of which you’re proud, and which readers love.

Please write in scenes. You must engage your readers, and “real time” writing is the only way to do that.

3. Use a book journal to keep track of your novel, and make revision notes for later drafts (after NaNoWriMo)

I’m a huge fan of book journals, simply because I’m usually writing at least two novels at any one time. As soon as I get an idea for a novel, I start a book journal for it.

Here’s an excellent article on book journals:

To write, you need to put your rear end in a chair, and stay there. On some days, this is difficult. On any day, you can find a dozen things you should be doing, rather than writing.

Journaling your book helps you to stay in your chair. Before you start writing, write a journal entry. Talk to yourself about the book. Ask questions (more on a questions below.)

Create your book journal today. It’s the most important thing you can do for your novel.

Vital: have FUN with NaNoWriMo and writing your novel

For writers, fun is serious business. Your enjoyment determines a reader’s enjoyment. Bored? Your readers will be too, and they won’t keep reading.

All professional writers know that if you’re not having fun with a book, your book needs help. Writing fiction is huge fun — if you allow it to be. Decide that you’ll have fun with your book, and your creativity will blossom.

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
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 →

Writing Fiction Made Easier: Get Out Of Backstory Hell

Writing Fiction Made Easier: Get Out Of Backstory Hell

I’ve just looked at this blog’s stats for the past 12 months, and this post on backstory (kill it) is by far the most popular post. I’m not surprised. When you’re writing fiction, backstory is a challenge for new authors.

To reiterate from that post:

Resist the Impulse to Explain

New writers start off great. They get the woman in the trunk of the car (or create some other hot action which starts things off.) Then they feel they need to explain who the woman is, and how she landed in the trunk of a car. They go on for pages and pages. RESIST! Please do not do this.

How to manage backstory: remove it when you’re editing

Important… Don’t worry about backstory in your first draft. Just write.

Remove ALL backstory when you’re editing.

You can add backstory into your novel/ novella/ short story, very carefully after your “slash and burn” editing fury. Restrain yourself. Only a sentence or two at a time. And only if you must add it for the story to make sense.

Here’s what a new author’s backstory hell looks like

I work with lots of writing students, so I may be more sensitive to backstory hell than most.

Here’s a common problem I see — messed-up scenes.

Not only does the new author cram backstory into a scene until the scene’s mangled beyond repair… he crams yet more backstory into the backstory.

Here’s what that looks like:

  • the scene starts. You settle down for an enjoyable scene between two characters, then the author inserts…
  • backstory 1, of one of the characters…
  • in the middle of backstory 1, you get backstory 2, the backstory of the other character…
  • Finally the author remembers he’s writing a scene. So you get a snippet of the scene (by this time the reader’s head is spinning like a top). After just a few paragraphs of the scene, the author inserts…
  • something or other, which may be backstory, or maybe it’s a flashback, who knows?

Sadly, readers have long-since stopped reading.

Forget backstory, PLEASE

Just kill it wherever you find it.

Keep your story moving forward.

Write in scenes, remembering that a scene happens in the present moment, just like a movie scene. There’s no room for backstory in a scene.

I blame advice like “write a character bio” for backstory hell. As I said in Kill Your Backstory:

If you’ve been happily creating character bios, and other junk, stop it. Who cares what flavor of ice cream your main character prefers?

The best way to create character bios is to do it while you’re writing. Yes, you need to remember that your main character’s eyes are brown, not blue, and that he lives with his Uncle Jake, who’s going out with Selma from the diner.

I copy and paste all this must-remember material into a single “characters” document in Scrivener. Then I open that document in Quick Ref while I’m writing the novel.

If you’ve been creating lengthy character bios before you start writing, STOP IT. Otherwise you’ll be tempted to insert all this junky material as backstory while you’re writing.

The benefit of killing backstory: a plot, and more fun writing

I’m convinced that authors cram in backstory because they’re nervous. They’re writing a scene, there’s conflict, so the author wants to explain that conflict. Stop explaining. Just write the scene.

Not only will you end up with a PLOT, and a story which readers enjoy, you’ll enjoy writing it. too. 😉

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
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4 Fiction Writing Tips: Write Great Dialogue

4 Fiction Writing Tips: Write Great Dialogue

Writing dialogue should be easy. We all talk, don’t we? Unfortunately our challenge is that in fiction writing, the best dialogue isn’t anything like real life conversations. It’s much, much better.

From Deadline by John Sandford:

“Maybe you should have been a cop,” Virgil said.

“Nah. I couldn’t put up with the bullshit,” Clarice said.

“You’re living with Johnson Johnson, and you can’t put up with bullshit?”

“Got me there,” she said. “He is a bullshit machine. But he gets things done.”

To improve my dialogue, I’ve studied plays and TV scripts. Unfortunately, scripts don’t help. Scriptwriting isn’t fiction writing. Check out The Importance of Being Earnest — not much help there, right?

What helps, is to listen to people’s real life conversations, and then do the best you can when writing dialogue. And of course, you can study how the authors you love use dialogue.

These tips will help too.

1. See it, hear it: write your dialogue first

We’ve talked about writing in scenes. When I write scenes, I write the first sentence, and the last sentence of the scene. I also write down what effect I want from the scene.

Here’s the graphic from the How to Write Scenes in Novels and Short Stories article again; writers tell me it’s very useful.

How to Write Scenes in Novels and Short Stories

Before I start a scene, I muse a little about the characters in the scene, and what they want. I try to visualize them. Then I write the dialogue. Nothing else, just the dialogue.

Then I go back and add dialogue tags, physical actions, the point of view (POV) character’s thoughts, and other information. I’ll edit the dialogue as needed.

Focusing on dialogue first means that you’re focusing on what matters. You’ll get your scenes written faster, and they’ll be more dramatic too.

2. Use character catchphrases, but don’t overdo it

Do all your characters sound the same? Try giving them catchphrases. You’ll find that this will make a character more real to you — and you’ll write his dialogue more easily.

If you’re not writing a humorous character, limit the number of times the character uses his catchphrase.

3. Forget the dialogue tags, they’re distracting

Avoid overusing dialogue tags: “he said” etc. In our snippet above, from Deadline, Sandford’s over-using his tags to achieve an effect. Virgil Flowers is a laconic cop; Sandford’s voice in the Flowers’ books conveys this brilliantly.

Vital tip: if you need a dialogue tag, use “said.” Please don’t grab a thesaurus to find synonyms — hissed, whispered, groaned etc.

Worse — please don’t tag an adverb onto “said”.  As in “he said harshly.” If he says something harshly, make the dialogue harsh. As Stephen King pointed out:

“The adverb is not your friend.”

4. When you’re writing dialect, avoid making readers think

You write fiction to make readers feel. If you make them think, you drag them out of the fictive dream. That’s the danger when you use heavy dialects.

From Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander:

‘But it was a risk to you,’ I said, persisting. ‘I didn’t realize you’d be in danger when I asked you.’

‘Ah,’ he said noncommittally. And a moment later, with a hint of amusement, ‘Ye wouldna expect me to be less bold than a wee Sassenach lassie, now would ye?’

There’s enough dialect in Gabaldon’s novel for verisimilitude; it’s not distracting to most readers.

Writing dialogue is fun: play with it

Have fun with your dialogue. When your characters become so real to you that you can hear them speak, they’ll be real to your readers too.

Updated: January 8, 2017

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
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 →