Tag Archives: fiction writing

Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines

Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines

If you’re new to writing fiction, you may be struggling with outlines. You may even believe that you can’t create outlines – or that you don’t need to outline. You may be right. Maybe  you’ll get a flush of inspiration, and your book “writes itself.” That’s never happened to me, nor to any other writer I know, but it could happen. 🙂

Let’s look at some fiction writing tips for beginners. I’ve had lots of questions from readers of our Fab Freelance Writing Blog who are itching to try fiction, but aren’t sure whether they can; I said:

Here’s what’s always worked for me, and works for my students when they’re not sure whether they can write something or other. If you THINK you can, and you WANT TO, you can. What counts is your enthusiasm and excitement.

So, if you think you can, you can.

1. Start With an Image

I like to start my fiction with an image, rather than a bunch of words. In How to Write a Short Story in 5 Steps, I said:

You can start with a real image, if you like. Bestselling novelist Tracy Chevalier received her inspiration for her bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring from Vermeer’s painting. I like starting with an image because a good painting or photograph conveys emotion; you can extrapolate a whole story from that.

Or, you can start with a mental image of a character who’s wonderful, but has a silly hangup (or a more serious one, but your story will need to be longer). She/ he gets over the hangup by the end of the story.

Why start with an image? Because it’s less restrictive. It opens your imagination; words tend to close it.

Here’s another reason to start with an image: an image has built-in emotion – if you choose the right image. Fiction is all about emotion. No emotion? You’ve got nothing. Your idea, no matter how wonderful, will fizzle out. Or you’ll have a bunch of weird emotions tumbling around, which you can’t get a handle on… and the novel or short story fizzles out.

You may get an idea for a story. Let’s say that we’re writing New Adult fiction. Our heroine falls in love with someone she’s only “met” on Facebook. Unfortunately, she’s fallen in love with someone who doesn’t exist. Someone created a fake profile, specifically to lure her into a trap.

2. Make a Simple List

You’ve got a little idea, and an image you’ve found in a magazine, or you’ve copied an image from Pinterest or an art gallery website.

Before you start writing to expand your idea, make a list of nouns. Any nouns which arouse emotion in you. Bestselling novelist Ray Bradbury was very fond of lists, and I am too.

Lists poke your subconscious mind and wake it up, and that’s all you want at this stage.

3. Create a Logline From What You Have

A “logline” is a single sentence which tells your story. Grab any TV program guide to get a sense of loglines. A logline tells you who, what, how, and why.

Here’s a great little template for a logline:

When [INCITING INCIDENT OCCURS], a [SPECIFIC PROTAGONIST] must [OBJECTIVE], or else [STAKES].

So, for our Facebook “fake” story, we could write:

When her boyfriend is murdered, 20-year-old college student Holly West must solve the mystery of her fake Facebook boyfriend or else take the chance that the murderer will come after her.

OK, I know it’s crappy, but work with me here. 🙂 I haven’t gone through the steps. I haven’t found an image, nor did I make a list. I just worked with the original seed of an idea, and can up with a quick logline. You’ll be able to do much better; just go through the steps.

4. Start writing: outline your scenes as you write

You may love outlines. If your creativity gets sparked by outlining, go ahead and write an outline now. Forget formal outlines like the ones you created in school, make a list of scenes. I use index cards, and Trello.

I’m a pantser at heart, so I usually start writing, once I have the logline. I want to get to know my characters. Once I’ve written a couple of scenes, I interview the hero and heroine, and then I outline the BIG scenes — the pinch points, if you’re working with 7-point plotting. Then I start writing again, outlining just a few scenes ahead.

If you’re new to writing fiction, try working with an image, making a list of nouns, and creating a logline from your initial idea. This is a super-easy way to outline, and to write fiction which sells.

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

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Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction.

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Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

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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.

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Fiction Writing Tools: Two to Love (Mac)

Fiction Writing Tools: Two to Love (Mac)

I’ve been asked about fiction writing tools, so I’ll make this quick, and tell you what I use. Keep in mind that I’m a full time writer, and have been for years. I need tools which help me to get organized, and stay organized. If you’re a brand new writer, start off with Scrivener. You can do almost everything in Scrivener; you can get other tools as you need them.

Not a Mac person? If you need Windows alternatives, you could consider WikidPad as an alternative to VoodooPad, and Microsoft OneNote as an alternative to Curio.

1. VoodooPad: Magic for Organization and Creativity.

VoodooPad is a wiki, like Wikipedia in a sense, but instead of living on the Web, it’s an app on your Mac. Only you get to use it. You can create as many VoodooPad documents as you like, and each VoodooPad document is made up of pages. Initially, I worried about file size for VoodooPad docs, but some of my documents are several gigs in size. They’re still as speedy as they ever were.

Like a wiki, you create links in a document, leading to other pages. Type two words together like “MustDo” and VoodooPad makes the combo word a link. Click on the link, and VoodooPad creates a MustDo page for you. In that page, you can create other links leading to other pages. Although it sounds complicated, talking about it takes more time than doing it.

Don’t worry about organization. You have a “home” page, which is your index. However, most of my index pages in VoodPad documents only contain a few references to links. You can locate other material via the Search function, the Pages drawer, and via Collections.

I love VoodooPad for fiction. I create a new VoodooPad document for each series and serial part-work I create, to act as the “Bible” for that line of books. I dump everything in the document: notes about plot, character, settings, a daily writing journal (for weeping and wailing and counting words)…

Previously, I kept all this material in the Research section of the book’s, or series’, Scrivener document, but I prefer VoodooPad for all extraneous material.

2. Curio: Helps You to Think.

Although you can keep images and PDFs in both Scrivener and VoodooPad, I prefer Curio as a visual organizer. I use it to store book cover images, Amazon descriptions and keywords, and brainstorms. A couple of series I’m ghostwriting are historical, so I keep images of character dress, houses of the time, and reference notes to books that I want to borrow from the library or buy.

If you’re an Evernote user, Curio integrates beautifully with it. I make notes and draw in my paper journals, and on cards. I photograph them into Evernote with my phone. Then I drag the images into Curio. Sounds convoluted, but it works.

As we’ve said, if you’re just starting on your writing journey, start with Scrivener. (You can thank me later.) Once your needs extend beyond that, because you’re working on several book projects at a time, explore other tools.

VoodooPad and Curio are two tools I love. I’d be lost without them.

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2 Essential Fiction Writing Tips for Great Story Beginnings

2 Essential Fiction Writing Tips for Great Story Beginnings

You’re writing fiction. You know that if your readers don’t read past the first couple of pages, they won’t buy your story. They certainly won’t join your mailing list or buy your next story.

So, you need to put some thought into your story beginnings. You need to start strong. In a sense, your story’s ending is in the beginning, so in addition to starting strong, you also need to know how your story will end up. (By “story” I mean novel, short story, novella – any piece of fiction.)

If you’re familiar with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat story plotting method, you’ll start your story with the Opening Image, the first “beat” in your story. Snyder’s final beat is the Final Image, which relates to the Opening Image.

A tip: in your first draft, don’t worry about your story’s beginnings. Too many writers spend days on a “great” beginning. Usually this wonderful beginning doesn’t get used because the story changes as you write it. Work on your beginning in your second draft.

Before we get to our fiction writing tips for beginnings, let’s look at some great first words, which keep readers reading. I’ve chosen these three stories because they’re romances I’ve recently read, there’s no deeper meaning than that to my choices.

The first is from Her Teddy Bear: Complete Collection, an erotic romance collection of novellas by Mimi Strong:

‘When my sister Nikki first told me about the blind date, I said to her, “If he’s so freakin’ fantastic, why don’t YOU go out with him?”’

Next, All Jacked Up, an erotic romance novel by Lorelei James, from her Rough Riders series:

‘Keely McKay’s lucky cowgirl boots kicked up clouds of dust as she paced across the wooden plank floor.’

And finally, from Mr. Perfect, by Linda Howard. This romantic suspense novel has a prologue, which clues us in to what happens later in the book. Much later. The book’s actual beginning, Chapter 1, Scene 1 starts with these words:

‘Jaine Bright woke in a bad mood.

Her neighbor, the blight of the neighborhood, had just roared home at 3 A.M.’

Would those three story beginnings keep you reading, if you were looking for a romance story? In just a few words, the authors have given readers not only a sense of the primary character, they’ve also established a conflict. Character and conflict are the two essentials you need to include in the beginnings of your stories.

1. Start With Your Primary Character: an Original (Real) Person.

Victorian novelists could get away with waffling about the countryside and the weather in their story beginnings. We can’t. Readers expect to meet an intriguing character, to whom they can relate, as soon as possible after your story starts.

In our examples above, the authors introduce the viewpoint character immediately, so that readers can start getting to know the character. We’re in no doubt that the three heroines we meet are strong women. Each has a singular character: she’s not a generic woman. She’s an original.

2. Conflict: Start With a Bang, or at Least a Thump.

Would you be inclined to keep reading if the above three authors had started their stories by simply describing these women? You might. On the other hand, you might be inclined to think… Meh, who cares? And click away, looking for a story which offered a little more. That “little more” is conflict.

Not only do readers want to meet an original character in your story beginnings, they also want something which inspires emotion. They want to feel. Your original character has a problem, which inspires emotion. There’s no need to start your story with a bang – a big conflict. Introducing a big conflict before we get to know a character is a mistake. We don’t care enough about the character yet to be worried if she’s fired from her job, held up at gunpoint, or discovers her husband’s corpse in the garage.

So there you have it. Two essential fiction writing tips for great story beginnings. Happy writing. 🙂

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

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

eBook: $5.99

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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Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction

Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular.

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Updated: February 8, 2018