|The Top Thirteen Basics I’ve Learned about Writing Fiction in the Past 8 Months:
1. ‘She laughed,’ is not a dialogue tag! (ie: “Get real,” she laughed. Instead: “Get real,” she said with a laugh. Or better, “Get real!” She rolled her eyes and laughed.)
2. Avoid most uses of “he said” “she said” and replace with actions.
3. Head-hopping is a big no-no. Established authors can get away with it, but newbies can’t touch it with a 100 foot pole. (Head hopping is when you write the thoughts of more than one character in the same scene…writers refer to it more professionally as “keeping a tight POV”–point of view)
4. SHOW, don’t tell. Ever ho and hum through a chapter that is all narrative? Jump it up and SHOW what’s happening, don’t say:”He went to her house and threatened her at gunpoint.” Show it with actions and dialogue.
5. Don’t have characters drinking coffee or tea, taking a shower, riding in a car, or spending time in the kitchen in the first 50 pages. (Thanks a lot Donald Maass!)
6. Character arc. Make your character’s inner/outer goals matter and change significantly from the beginning to the end.
7. Don’t kill the dog if you write mysteries. Mystery readers won’t finish the book. Some agents won’t ever give you another chance. Human murder–fine and dandy–but don’t touch precious Fido!
8. POV isn’t just whose thoughts are allowed in “the scene you’re in”…If you are in your heroine’s 25 yo POV and “seeing” things from her viewpoint then you might zoom in on her preference for a mocha latte while her pooch (if you wanted to write from a dog’s POV) would reserve drooling for the leather shoes of the man she’s with…
9. Conflict. Start the story with it, and have some in each chapter. I guess it’s a typical mistake of beginning writers to have a syrupy sweet story. Got to up the stakes. Make the reader care.
10. If you are writing Christian fiction, CBA guidelines want you to pick a generic denomination for your character’s faith. No Baptist, Methodist, etc. More along the lines of Community Bible Church. Guess they don’t want to offend anyone.
11. Drop the adverbs…ly’s and such. Thankfully, I had this one in the bag.
12. Nix the purple prose. Supposedly every new author overdoes the description of “dawn’s rosy fingers”… Don’t make your potential editor cringe.
13. Join a great group like American Christian Fiction Writers to be challenged, motivated, educated and last but not least…to cushion the self-inflicted blows when revision time hits with a vengeance!
And if you enjoy things like this, be sure to visit Mir’s Non-Comprehensive Tour of Trouble Spot Tip-Offs. I promise you, you will laugh as you learn!
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