Tag Archives: readers

5 Bestselling Fiction Tips: Start With Heart

5 Bestselling Fiction Tips: Start With Heart

Want to write bestselling fiction? There’s one simple rule: keep readers reading. Authors have more challenges with story beginnings than they do with anything else, except perhaps the dreaded middle of a novel.

Start with heart: that is, focus on emotion, always. This usually means conflict. Readers will only read if they’re engaged — if they care about your characters.

Not only do story beginnings slow authors down, because they’ve heard that first pages are “important”, but they also they encourage bad habits.

Bad habits to avoid when starting a new novel, short story, or novella

Let’s look at some bad habits, then we’ll look at some tips to help you to overcome them.

Bad habits include:

  • Micro-managing your inspiration in your first draft. In your initial draft, all that matters is that you start your story. Chances are you’ll delete the first few scenes later anyway;
  • Explaining too much. Info-dumping in your first few scenes (or at any time);
  • Starting with a dramatic scene. Yes, you want to start with a bang, but your readers need to care about the people involved, otherwise they stop caring — and reading;
  • Reworking your first chapter, or scene — rereading, rereading and editing the material into oblivion (the cure? NO EDITING in first drafts).
  • Introducing too many characters in your first few scenes. Introduce your leads asap, but avoid naming too many characters too soon;
  • Meandering — start your story’s engine as soon as you can.

How to write great story beginnings

1. Don’t begin at the beginning

If you’re nervous about your story’s beginning, leave it. There’s no law which states that you must write your fiction chronologically.

Start with a later scene. You don’t have to introduce your characters before you understand them yourself. Watch your characters act, as you write, then go back and write the first few scenes later.

2. Avoid flashbacks and flash forwards: focus on scenes

Avoid lengthy flashbacks. They stop your story cold, and they’re rarely necessary. If you must have a flashback because your story hinges on something or other, give it an entire scene, or a chapter to itself. Start the scene with: “Twenty years earlier…”

Impatient readers will skim it anyway, to get back to the story. You may take that scene out in later drafts, or find an easier way to integrate the information.

3. Start your engine — get to the point and set up your story

It’s vital that something happens in the beginning of your story. New authors tend to go on for thousands of words, with nothing much happening.

What’s the point of your story? Let’s say it’s “elderly billionaire murdered for his millions, suspects include his trophy wife, three ex-wives and his five children. My Clever Sleuth (MCS) solves the mystery, and gets a promotion.”

Introduce MCS. Let readers see him in action. Then MCS gets called to the murder scene.

Or, you could start with the victim. Show him being nasty to his children, stripping an ex-wife or two of her income, and firing a few thousand people. Then introduce MCS, show him in action… then he hears about the billionaire’s murder.

Focus on action, and ensure that your characters act. Passive characters drain the life out of your story. Whiners, complainers, and victims, ditto. Eliminate all passive characters. If you’re writing New Adult fiction, you can get away with your heroine being a passive complaining victim. Maybe.

However, writing passive characters can develop into a bad habit, so avoid passivity, no matter what genre you’re writing.

Readers always just want to get on with it. They want action, so…

4. Focus on ACTION. Create characters who act: passive characters are annoying (except perhaps in the New Adult genre)

Action means events. However, these aren’t disconnected events. They’re always directly related to your story. In life, things happen which are disconnected — someone breaks into your home, you lose your job, you go out to dinner…

In fiction, everything’s related to the point — your story. Nothing just happens. Things happen for a reason, and those events alter whatever follows.

5. Everyone’s fighting with everyone else: add conflict on every page

Just as events happen for a reason, conflict is always for a reason too. In your first draft, you may write along for chapters on end and have no idea why two characters are fighting. Your subconscious knows. Suddenly all will become plain, and you’ll realize that you need to add a scene or two in your next draft, to set up this conflict, and intensify it.

In later drafts, intensify all conflict.

Remember: emotion. You feel the emotion, characters experience it and react, and you keep readers reading.

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

The Journaling Habit: Achieve Your Goals And Change Your Life In Just Ten Minutes A Day

eBook: $5.99

Do you love your life?

If you don't ADORE your life, you can change it — more easily than you can imagine.

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Write AND Sell in Just 8 Hours: Create Top-Selling Ebooks FAST

Write AND Sell in Just 8 Hours: Create Top-Selling Ebooks FAST

$4.99

What if you could create AND sell an ebook or other product in just eight hours? The product could be anything: a Kindle ebook, a collection of articles, a short story… a new writing service for your clients. This program will show you how to think outside the box, get creative — and SELL what you create.

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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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Bestselling Fiction: Create Characters Readers Love

Bestselling Fiction: Create Characters Readers Love

If you want to create bestselling fiction, you need to pay attention to creating characters readers love — or at least like.

Firstly, a word about words.

Fiction isn’t words, it’s feelings

New authors can focus too much on “writing”; on the words. Please be aware that you won’t get beyond this stage in your first few years as an author. Words are your tools. It’s natural to be totally focused on them. However, try to take it to heart that your words don’t matter. What matters, is your effect on readers.

That effect doesn’t come from words unless those words have heart. To make readers feel, you need to feel.

Your skill as an author grows, until you move beyond words, to feelings. Of course the words still matter. 🙂 They matter very much. But as you grow as an author, you’ll know that without heart, you have nothing to share.

I’m sure that the above comment is about as clear as the proverbial mud, if you’re a new author. Just remember — HEART. Feel your characters. Care about them, and the situations they’re in.

Make your characters likable

Your readers MUST like your main character. If they don’t, they’ll never get beyond the ebook sample. They certainly won’t buy your novel, or short story.

In Creating Characters In Fiction: No One’s Perfect, we said:

“Beware of making your characters too perfect however. Perfection isn’t for human beings.”

Authors know that they need to create likable characters, so they make their main characters perfect. The female lead is a heart surgeon. She’s a widow, with four children she’s raising alone. She buys only organic produce, cooks healthy meals, and campaigns to save the planet…

The male lead character is a self-made billionaire who looks like a male model, is a race car driver, climbs mountains, and is always seen with a gorgeous woman on his arm.

These characters are perfect. They’re also completely unreal, and boring. They’re unlikable.

How to create likable characters: make readers care

Liking a character starts when readers care about a character. So how do you make readers care?

Give your main character an obstacle, and a goal. Then make him or her fight for that goal, against big odds.

Let’s say that as above, your female lead character is a surgeon, in a male-dominated field. She sees a superior make an error. The patient dies. Your lead wants to change two protocols, so that the error can’t happen again. Yet everyone refuses to admit that the head surgeon made an error.

Your lead fights for what she believes in. She’s not perfect. She’s out-spoken. She has children who are raised by a nanny, and she feels guilty about that. She also feels guilty that she couldn’t make her marriage work.

In short: to create a likable character, create a flawed character, who’s fighting against the odds for an important goal.

Think about the people you like. All they perfect? Of course not. Yet, they’re caring, compassionate, smart… they fight for what they believe in, and help the people they can help.

Plot is character: likable characters ACT

What’s more important? Characters, or plot? You can’t disentangle them, because plot is characters acting — and failing.

No one likes to fail. However your characters will fail, and after they fail, they’ll persist. They’ll keep pursuing their goals.

We often discuss scenes. Do yourself a favor, and think in scenes.

In Writing Fiction In Scenes: The Big Secret, we said:

The most important scenes in fiction are your “big” scenes. In a romance, they’re the scenes in which the main characters become romantically involved. In a mystery, they’re the scenes in which you artfully drop clues to either guide, or mislead, your readers.

We’ve also said that:

A scene is a unit of ACTION. Make something HAPPEN — something important, which changes things for your main character.

Focus on scenes and action

Take a look at the fiction you’re working on. What happens in each scene? Do your characters fight for what they want in each scene?

If you’ve written some scenes in which nothing much happens, you’ve lost your readers. Make things happen — make your characters take action. Let them fail.

If your main characters have goals, with big obstacles to blocking them from achieving those goals, and yet act, you’ve created likable characters. Keep them moving. Force them to act, and keep acting. With any luck at all, you’ll create characters readers love — and you’ll write bestselling fiction.

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.

More info →
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Amazon Kindle
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.

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Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Fiction Writing Basics: Scenes, Narrative and Chapters

Fiction Writing Basics: Scenes, Narrative and Chapters

Let’s take a look at fiction writing basics: scenes, narrative, and chapters. Several readers asked “What’s a chapter?” My response, “Whatever it needs to be,” isn’t all that helpful, so let’s clarify.

Your fiction is constructed in scenes and narrative

I rarely use chapters in short stories and novellas. When I write a novel, I write it in scenes, and set up chapters in the second or third draft. You need to be wary of chapters (see below.)

Let’s get some definitions out of the way.

What’s a scene?

In “Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need?”, we said:

“A scene is defined as a unit of action; the operative word being ACTION. Something happens in a scene. If nothing much happens, it’s not a scene.”

A scene can be 40 pages, or two paragraphs in length. I know “pages” have zero meaning in ebooks, so let’s assume that a page is 250 words, and 40 pages are 10,000 words.

Most of my scenes in short stories and novels are around 1,500 words. Some may be just 400 words. Others — the “big” scenes — will be longer.

When I’m planning a novel, for example, I know I need to establish the set up of the story in four scenes. If I get to my seventh scene, and still haven’t finished setting things up, I need to rethink.

Big scenes, those scenes which are essential, and are major turning points, need more words. I allocate those words in planning. That said, be loose in your planning. A scene which you thought would be major, may not be needed, if you’ve changed the plot.

What’s narrative?

You’ve heard of “show, don’t tell”. Your scenes are showing. Narrative is telling. Narrative is a report of what happened. You need some narrative. You can’t show everything that happens in your fiction in a scene. Minor events and pieces of action don’t need to be shown.

For example, let’s say that your main character moves across the country to take a new job. You could say “Fred moved to New York”, and leave it at that. That’s narration.

However, perhaps something important happens during the trip, but you don’t want to show it in a scene. You’d just narrate (tell) what happens.

Or perhaps you need to include a little information about something that happened before your story starts. You could add a little narration to cover that. (Don’t overdo backstory. Too much backstory stops your story dead; you’ll lose readers, who just want to get on with the story.)

What’s a chapter?

A chapter’s an arbitrary division of your story.

The big question: how many scenes in a chapter? is very hard to answer. You might have three scenes and some narrative in a chapter. You might have just one scene in a chapter if something big happens.

Use reader-curiosity to keep readers reading at the end of a chapter

We’ve said that you need to be wary of chapters. Here’s why. A reader might get to the end of the chapter, and stop reading. The end of a chapter is a natural stopping point to readers — don’t allow that. A reader may vanish for good.

If you’ve enrolled your ebook in KDP Select, and it’s available in Kindle Unlimited, the more pages your readers read, the more you get paid. 😉 Levity aside, you’re writing to be read, so it’s your job to keep readers reading.

Either end your chapter with suspense: “Eve turned around. The man was holding a gun.” Alternatively, foreshadow something in the final scene of the chapter which intrigues the reader so much that he must keep reading to see what happens next.

Chapters can be very useful: they encourage you to remember readers. Big tip: always know WHY you’ve set up a chapter — don’t just create a chapter because you’ve written four scenes and think you need to create a chapter.

In your first draft, focus on scenes and narration

You can do as I do, and ignore chapter divisions in your first draft. The only time it makes sense to divide your fiction into chapters in your first draft is if you have clear divisions.

If…

  • You’re writing from more than one point of view;
  • Your fiction takes place in multiple eras (as when you’re writing a time travel novel, for example);
  • Some other reason — if you’ve got reasons to set up chapters, do it.

First chapters, last chapters: focus on SCENES

Authors tend to worry about their first and last chapters. After all, it’s true that the first chapter sells your book. The final chapter sells the next.

I tend to concern myself with the first 10% of the book (Amazon shows the first 10% in Look Inside), and the final two scenes. Make your initial two scenes, and your final scenes satisfying to readers, and you’ve done well.

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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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 →

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.