7 Storywriting Strategies for Beginning Fiction Writers

Was Shakespeare born with a writing quill in one hand and an inkwell in the other? Nope. He had to learn writing strategies. He started out as a beginner, an unpublished writer who needed to learn how to write. How did Shakespeare learn to write so well? By reading and absorbing the writing strategies of the authors who preceded him.

These seven writing strategies will help you take your writing to the next level. The great thing about writing is that the more you write it, the better you get. It’s a skill you can improve throughout your life, one word at a time.

1. Read as much as you can – in all genres

Hopefully, if you want to write one, you also have a thing for books. You don’t have to have read every word of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, but you should at least read widely in your genre.

Genre, you say? Well, are you planning to write thriller, erotica, urban fantasy, young adult dystopian paranormal techno-romance? Whatever flavor you intend to write, you should become familiar with what the readers of that genre expect. Each genre has its rules and norms.

2. Learn from the masters

ir?t=quitipfroadvw 20&l=as2&o=1&a=1439156816 - 7 Storywriting Strategies for Beginning Fiction WritersMillions of words about writing have already been published. Take advantage of them. Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a staple.

I also love Jack M. Bickham’s Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)ir?t=quitipfroadvw 20&l=as2&o=1&a=0898799066 - 7 Storywriting Strategies for Beginning Fiction Writers, and Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell. Books like these can help you skip past many of the beginner mistakes that less-informed writers make.

3. Explore different ways to write

There are two main types of writers: plotters, and pantsers. Plotters sit down before writing and make an outline or a synopsis of the novel, then work from that to create the full length manuscript. Pantsers, on the other hand, forgo all that and just put pen to paper.

I used to be a plotter, and now I’m becoming a pantser. I would recommend you start out your writing career making outlines, because it will save you a lot of revisions later on. The desire to let your fingers go willy-nilly over the keyboard may be strong, but until you have a solid amount of practice creating stories, I would stay away from pantsing.

In Mind Mapping for Writers, publishing coach Daphne Gray-Grant offers outlining tips and strategies for beginning writers.

4. Learn how to tell a good story

“STORY distilled is…HOOK, BUILD, PAYOFF,” writes Shawn Coyne in The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know. “That’s it.”

Examples of Good Writing From Professional Writers

Just about every story ever told is about a guy or girl who wants something (desire), and there is a cost to not getting it (stakes), and something stands in the way (conflict). Know these three things before you start is a crucial strategy for beginning writers, and you’ll be on the right track. Start typing without them and your story may flounder and go nowhere.

5. Learn how to write scenes and sequels

Scenes and sequels are the building blocks of story, and knowing this one strategy for writers will rocket you light years ahead of most beginners. A scene is a unit of conflict, and a sequel is the glue between two scenes. Your story will be made up of alternating and escalating scenes and sequels until the big climax.

Your character wants something. She’s got a big goal, such as getting the promotion or winning the contract from her rival biologist. In order to do that she has to achieve several smaller goals along the way. So she writes a business report to get the client. But her dog swallows the USB port with the only copy of the report. This is a scene: it has a goal, conflict, and a result. The goal failed, so now the character will have a sequel, in which she reflects on her failure with the mixtape, and decides what to do next to win the boy’s heart. That decision leads into the next goal and the scene. Pile up enough of these, and you have a story.

6. Find beta readers and critique groups

Now that you’ve finished your masterpiece, it’s time to let someone else read it. Other people can always spot mistakes in the plot or characters that you can’t see because you lack objectivity. Find beta readers you can trust to give you honest opinions (not just your mom, who’s legally obligated to tell you it’s perfect), and join a critique group, if there’s one nearby. In a critique group, you not only get help with your own story, but you learn editing by critiquing the stories of other writers.

7. Start writing your next project

This may be the most important writing strategy for beginners: know when to put that baby to rest. Maybe you’ll go on to write ten drafts of your manuscript. Maybe you want to give it just one more run-through to get it perfect. The truth is, it’ll never be perfect. Your next project will be better, because you’ll know now what you didn’t know then. And the one after that will be even better. Maybe you’ll send manuscript #1 out to agents and get nothing but a massive pile of rejection letters. That’s okay, just don’t give up. Stick that manuscript in the drawer, and get on with the next one.

Are you writing a book? Read 20 Ways to Write a Better Novel.

7 Additional Strategies for Beginning Novelists

  1. Protect your writing time to work. Published fiction writers are obsessive about protecting their time. If you don’t guard your time, no one else will. Keep your promises to yourself – it’ll give you momentum and endurance.
  2. Stop saying “this is the way I write.” Don’t get stuck on one particular way to write, outline, blog, or do research. Be open to exploring new techniques and abandoning the tools that don’t work.
  3. Know that writing is active, not passive. Write fast and write now. A practical fiction writing strategy is to avoid procrastinating, whether it’s revising chapter three or writing your fiction book proposal.
  4. Use mind maps. Fiction authors use mind maps for characterization, plot, chapter summaries, and whole books.
  5. Hear your own voice first. You don’t necessarily need to do Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, but you do have to hear yourself first. A strategy all writers need is to process the world through their own experiences. This helps them understand their characters.
  6. Use a working journal. In a working journal, you write a sentence or two about what’s holding you back from writing today, or what’s bothering you. Then you move into your book or article – and suddenly you’re writing dialogue or description! For fiction writers, working journal is for both life and the book.
  7. Consider fiction writing tools such as Scrivener. This is a writer’s software program that many fiction writers can’t live without. Scrivener works faster, saves every two seconds, allows you to separate chapters and scenes, and files your scenes on the side of your desktop.
7 Writing Strategies for Beginning Fiction Writers
Fiction Writing for Beginners

If you feel overwhelmed with all these writing strategies, you are in good company. Even the most published, famous, successful authors struggle with motivation, time, and energy.

“I just feel like I’m failing forward,” says  New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Vicki Pettersson. She describes herself as a mule who wants it really bad…so she stays focused and determined to keep writing her books. “Writers sabotage ourselves in so many ways to keep ourselves from doing what we want to do.”

Where do you start? Read 5 Steps to Writing a Killer First Chapter to WOW Readers.


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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.