Wordsmith Wednesday–10 Suggestions to Improve your Fiction Writing


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I’m in a bullet point mood. That is to say, I feel like posting a list of short, unrelated tidbits that aim to help you improve your writing. Some, I’ve already mentioned. Others are new but don’t need a thesis.

  • To create a bit of drama in the relationships of your fictional characters, triangulate. Add a third party to a friendship or love relationship…someone who threatens to disturb the balance.
  • Within the first few pages of your novel (or first few paragraphs of your short story) create a destabilizing event–something that creates an obstacle to the goals of your protagonist.
  • Take two steps forward and one step backward. The path to resolution should be full of obstacles. As the story advances, allow your hero to solve a problem, but introduce another one in its wake. Keep the reader on edge and turning pages.
  • Embrace realism. We ask our readers to suspend disbelief, but there must be a thread of truth in what you write, even if you write sci-fi or fantasy. Your audience should be able to say, “If we were invaded by Martians, it is not improbable that humans would react like….”
  • Create multidimensional scenes. Don’t relay solely on one sense to describe a setting. What does it look like? Smell like? Sound like. The more you are able to engage the readers senses, the better able will you be to hurl them into the story.
  • Read aloud. Whether you edit/revise as you go along or as one unit (or both, like I do) be sure to read your manuscript aloud. You will catch typos, stilted dialogue, echos, or odd syntax when you go through that exercise. If you can find someone to read with you, especially portions of dialogue, all the better.
  • Be objective. If you use a familiar setting, for example, make sure your descriptions are clear to the reader. You may be able to envision the details of a scene but have you written it so that anyone can picture the progression of the action?
  • Connect with your reader. Identify the demographics of your target audience and write to them. Use appropriate language for age, gender, education level etc.
  • Allow a theme to emerge from your story–don’t force the story to fit the theme.
  • And, finally, whenever possible, substitute an active verb for an adverb or adjective.

I hope that you will find one or more of these suggestions helpful to you in your writing and revision process. I would love any feedback you have to offer. Above all, enjoy what you do!

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15 thoughts on “Wordsmith Wednesday–10 Suggestions to Improve your Fiction Writing

  1. I started writing something different than poetry and I have few short stories, but I think I don’t have the patience to write and write to get to the end. Where in poetry in couple of lines you can have the end … But these were very useful tips, when I get in a mood to finish what I started I sure will remember what I read here! Thanks Victoria! I shall visit you often, many things to learn from you!

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    • Have you thought about flash fiction, Blaga?

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      • The few short stories that I have are no longer than 1000 words, so I guess it’s the only thing I manage to do. When I post one of it on my blog I’ll send you a link to have a look at it and tell me if it’s a flash fiction 🙂

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      • I think only the best writers can succeed in flash fiction. You have to “write tight.” Demands strong word choices. I believe as poets we have an advantage. But it’s like poetry, not going to make us rich if that’s our goal. I’ll look forward to seeing what you post.

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  2. Jamie Dedes says:

    Bravo! Thank you …

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  3. Kavita says:

    Wow!! Thank you for sharing these excellent suggestions here, Victoria .. For the past few days now, I have been contemplating writing fiction prose.. Now, after reading your tips and hints, I might just find some direction…

    Thanks again!!

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  4. ladynimue says:

    Very useful !
    will keep in mind 🙂
    Thansk for sharing !!

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  5. Thank you! These are great suggestions! I’ve been planning, for the longest time, to write a novel, and these should help me. If I ever start, that is.

    I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award: http://beatofmydrum.com/?p=4184. You’re one of the bloggers I admire, and I think you truly deserve the award. Hope you’ll accept it! 🙂

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  6. Thanks, Victoria, for saying so much in such little space. I think you’ve summed up “How to Write Fiction” in these few bullet points.

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  7. trisha says:

    fantastic points victoria, thank you so very much for sharing us and honing my crusty tools.

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  8. I’ve looked all over your blog for your name, and your name is right in front of my eyes. It’s amazing I have gotten through life with my perception challenge. I can look and not find until I’m blue in the face. Then suddenly, what I’m looking for will be where it’s always been, and I finally see it. Victoria Ceretto-Slotto. I want to remember. I’d advise you to make your name more visible, but probably it is visible to everyone but me with my slow eyes.

    Your suggestions for writing fiction are wonderful. Every one of them makes perfect sense. Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you, Victoria…

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  9. tigerbrite says:

    These are helpful to me Victoria especially ‘read aloud’ and ‘connect with your target audience’.

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  10. kolembo says:

    Thanks. Ok…what’s an active verb?!

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    • Here’s an example. Instead of saying something like “the sky is full of fluffy clouds” you might say “puffs of cotton float across the sky.” Now, I don’t know that I’d use this one, but hopefully it gives you a sense. I think I had a post on active verbs way back. I’ll try to find the link for you.

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  11. souldipper says:

    Thank you, Victoria, for such great suggestions. I certainly appreciate your grand reminders and guidelines.

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