Category Archives: Fiction

Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Discover Your Plot

Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Discover Your Plot

Are you new to fiction writing? If so, you may be confused about plotting.

You have questions:

  • What’s a plot?
  • Do you need a plot?
  • What if you’re convinced that you “can’t plot?”

Let’s answer those questions.

Fiction writing: plotting for beginners

Basically a plot in fiction is a series of events which are linked by cause and effect.

And yes, your fiction needs a plot. Plotless fiction isn’t satisfying to readers and it’s not much fun to write either.

If you’re convinced that the plotting fairy failed to bestow her gifts on you, that’s fine. Some authors love plots and outlines. Other authors would rather stick a fork in their eyeball than develop a rigid outline — I belong to this group.

In Fiction Writing Tips For Beginners: Create A Character, I shared my cavalier approach to plotting:

Once I have a main character, a BIG problem for the character, and an antagonist, I start writing. I’m a pantser, pretty much. That said, I rely on my intuition. Should some good ideas magically arrive, I might outline the major plot points (beats) of the novel.

I’ve become competent at plotting over the years. However, I know that I’m a natural pantser. When I force myself to plot I risk losing my inspiration for a novel.

Let’s look at a couple of tips which will help you to discover your plot while you’re writing.

Discovering your plot while you’re writing is easy, and it’s fun too.

1. Focus on your characters: give them lots of problems, and make choices

Plotting starts when you have a character with problems and a goal. This isn’t just any goal — it’s a goal he MUST achieve, or die. He may not die physically, but his life is over.

Many of your characters’ problems stem from who they are — as many of our problems do, too.

In Plotting Fiction Made Easy With Strong Characters: 3 Tips we recommended that you give your story people positive and negative character traits, and:

A suggestion: any positive character trait can become a negative trait (flaw.) Traits, both positive and negative, tend to be on a continuum.

Your plot is what your characters DO — and what they do in response to any event depends on their traits (attributes).

For example, let’s say that your novel’s main character, Bill, is arrested for murdering his ex-wife. Bill has a problem. Bill also has a goal: to prove that he didn’t murder his ex-wife.

You’re the author: you have ultimate power. So you choose Bill’s attributes, and decide that he’s: introverted, self-critical, and witty. Bearing these traits in mind, how will he react to his arrest? Who does he call? What does he do next?

Vital tip: once you’ve decided what kind of personality Bill has, that immediately affects what he does.

Bill is your character — you can give him any personality traits you choose. Perhaps you decide that Bill is honest, intelligent, and attractive to women. Now he’s a different kind of person from introverted, self-critical Bill.

This alternate version of Bill will react in a different way to his arrest for murder.

After you’ve created a main character and have given him certain attributes, your plot begins when you give him a BIG problem. Your character’s step by step actions, and reactions, create your plot.

Major tip — the bigger the problem, the better.

Go to Amazon and read the blurbs of bestselling novels for examples of big problems.

(BTW — speaking of blurbs; here’s how to write blurbs.)

2. Plotting fiction: keep your characters acting and reacting

You’ll give your main character a BIG problem — one that seems overwhelming, given the personality he has. Readers like to see main characters fight for what they want.

Fiction is about change, so your main characters need to change in response to the events of your novel. Remember the cause and effect of your plot: something happens, then your character acts, and as a result of his actions, something else happens… And your PLOT grows.

We talked about your novel’s milestones in this blog post. By the end of the setup phase of your novel (the setup is around 25% of a novel) you need to have everything in place for ongoing fireworks as your main character struggles and grows.

Now your story takes a major twist — you need a major change at the end of the setup point; something readers don’t expect.

For example, if you were writing Bill’s story, by the end of the setup Bill is released from jail. He’s out on bail. Not only has poor Bill lost his job so he needs to find money for a lawyer, his teenage children believe that he’s guilty. They’ve gone to live with their grandparents who hate him…

The twist? Bill discovers that his wife was leading a double life.

As long as you keep cause and effect in mind, you’ll discover your plot when you keep writing. Remember cause and effect, write on, and have fun. 🙂

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

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You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell.

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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

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Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

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Resources to build your writing career

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Writing A Novel? 3 Tips To Boost Your Creativity

Are you writing a novel? It may well be therapeutic. Over the past decades, studies have shown that both writing and art have therapeutic effects.

Writing a novel may be good for you

Writing has been used as a therapy to recover from emotional trauma as well as to aid physical healing.

For example, a JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) article from 1999 was titled: “Effects of writing about stressful experiences on symptom reduction in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized trial.”

The study concluded that writing offered: “clinically relevant changes in health status at 4 months compared with those in the control group.”

Many writers and authors have suffered from ill health for much of their lives. As the saying goes… much of the world’s work is done by people who weren’t feeling well at the time.

Julius Caesar, for example, arguably the most effective military commander in history, suffered from epilepsy. Not only did he command his legions, and live in the field with his soldiers, Caesar was a prolific writer.

Caesar wrote well. Cicero, no slouch at writing either, wrote of Caesar’s Gallic War (a seven-volume work):

The Gallic War is splendid. It is bare, straight and handsome, stripped of rhetorical ornament like an athlete of his clothes. … There is nothing in a history more attractive than clean and lucid brevity.

Tip: if you’d like to be as prolific as Caesar and Cicero, consider dictating some of your writing, as these busy men did.

Tips to boost your creativity while you’re writing a novel

Want to boost your creativity? These tips may help.

1. Be guided by your intuition: if you’re ill, journaling can’t hurt, and may help you to heal

Do you feel you’d like to write about your illness? If so, do it, with this proviso: if you’re under the care of a medical professional, ask his or her advice about therapeutic writing before you start.

In the study referenced in the JAMA article above, they assigned patients to write about the most stressful event in their lives. They assigned the control group of patients to write about neutral topics.

2. Use journaling to lessen your stress

Unless you’re under the care of a doctor, please don’t write about events that are traumatic. However, you can write about stressful situations, if your intuition nudges you to do so.

Many years ago, when my children were small, I suffered from panic attacks. In those days, doctors were happy to medicate for any reason at all, so I ended up on medication for some months.

My intuition nudged me to write, so I wrote in my journal.

I used prompts:

  • What do I need to know today?
  • What can I learn from… (an event)?
  • What’s my best response to… (an event)?

When my medication ran out, I kept writing. Over time, my panic attacks occurred less often, and finally stopped.

3. Follow your intuition for ways to build your writing muscles

Is your intuition nudging you to doodle or paint? If so, consider taking an evening class. When speaking about creativity with writers, art journaling seems a popular activity. There’s a lot of satisfaction in splashing paint onto paper or canvas.

En Plein air (outdoor) painting is fun, and gets you out into the fresh air. Want company? Most towns, no matter how small, have an art society. Members take their paints with them on hikes, or have urban sketching days.

Watercolor painting has definitely enhanced my creativity. Not only is painting fun, it builds your writing muscles, because you become more observant. I often pause during my daily walk to marvel at the many colors in a cloudy sky, or at the variegated greens in trees.

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

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In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams.

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Write Fast, Write Well: How To Be Prolific, and Sell – Powerful tips to increase your writing income

Write Fast, Write Well: How To Be Prolific, and Sell – Powerful tips to increase your writing income

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What If You Were Twice As Successful, Or Even THREE Times More Successful Than You Are Today?

There's No Ceiling On A Writer's Income... You Just Need To Be Prolific.

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Resources to build your writing career

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Enjoy Writing Short Stories? Write Serial Fiction

Enjoy Writing Short Stories? Write Serial Fiction

Should you write serial fiction? I get lots of questions about serials, so let’s cover the basics.

You may be wondering just what “serials” are. In a nutshell, they’re entertainment: ongoing stories, which are released serially.

Serials: storytelling in many forms

Serials were hugely popular with readers and viewers up to the 1950s, when television arrived.

They were published as books by authors like Charles Dickens. Many other authors published their serials in magazines. Once a serial was complete, it was published again in book form, in one, or several volumes.

Movies were released as serials in theaters, again up to the 1950s. From the 1950s onward, serials flourished as episodic TV series.

Today, serials are as popular as they ever were, with companies like Netflix releasing their shows as serials.

You may be thinking that that’s wonderful… but can YOU write a serial and publish it?

Serial fiction: fun for plotters and pantsers

My writing students are sometimes reluctant to attempt a serial. Pantsers are concerned that they “can’t plot”, and plotters worry about the success or failure of their serial.

Pantsers who “can’t plot”…

You might be surprised at your own abilities, because if you can write a short story, you can write a series of ongoing short stories. Then, hey presto: you just wrote a serial.

We discussed a “natural outlining” process which will help.

Serial fiction: how long should your serial be?

In Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks I give you a process for writing serial fiction.

Your serial can be any length you choose. Your serial might consist of: ten chapters/ episodes at 10,000 words each, making a total of 100,000 words. That said, there’s no need to write at this length. You can write five episodes of 6,000 words or whatever suits your story.

Another common question I receive about serials is: what if your serial doesn’t sell enough copies to make it viable?

Oh no: what to do if your serial fiction slumps

Some books sell. Others should sell, and don’t. Sometimes these books can suddenly take off months later. Some are just useless. It happens.

Here’s what to do if your serial slumps:

  • Decide whether or not to complete it. You can end your serial at any time. Wrap it up, in any way you can;
  • If you enjoy writing the serial, keep going, and finish it;
  • Bundle the serial into a single volume. It may sell as a standalone;
  • Expand your serial into one or more novels.

You always have options.

One of my writing students was planning a serial. She had a LOT of plot. I suggested that she write a short serial of just five episodes, then carry the plot forward into a trilogy of short novels.

This process worked well. She released the serial when she had the first novel in the trilogy ready for preorder. Then she published the next two novels quickly. This trilogy is still her top seller.

Should you write serial fiction?

If you like writing short stories and publishing quickly, give serial fiction a try. Serials are a lot of fun, and readers enjoy them.

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

eBook: $5.99

Why write serial fiction?

Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.

It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.

If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

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Resources to build your writing career

Check out Angela’s Writing Classes and Angela’s books for writers.