When you write fiction, it’s a complex activity.
How could it not be? You want to your reader to believe in your story. You want it to feel real—so real in fact, that he becomes one or more of your characters.
Sometimes we can manage that. Often however, we fall far short. It’s hard to get the story in our head onto the page.
Write fiction and get the story in your head onto the page
We have two tools to make our story real: scene, and narrative. That is, “showing” (scene), and “telling”, which is narrative.
We also have checklists.
In 2020, I wrote “Writing Fiction: An Essentials Checklist For Your Novel”. My writing students found it useful, as did blog readers.
Here’s the checklist:
- Thrills and spills: make bad stuff happen to your characters
- The bad stuff must make sense
3: Contrast your characters: each character must be different
- Pay attention to setting: location, location, location…
5: Alternate your storylines (you need at least two)
- Add humor in a later draft, if you can
- Keep your backstory out of your story (keep secrets from your reader)
The checklist, expanded: more things to check
Over the past couple of years, authors asked me to expand on the checklist—they wanted more on each item. Here it is: Improve Your Fiction: An “Essentials” Checklist.
Not only have I expanded on the original items, I’ve also added more things to check.
What you receive with the checklist
- Improve Your Fiction: An “Essentials” Checklist (PDF, 35 pages.) Each element of the original checklist is expanded, with additional tips and more items for you to check.
- Scene Secrets: Simple Strategies For Creating Bestselling Fiction (27 pages.) When you write fiction, ideally you’ll write in scenes. When you do, you’ll improve your character creation, as well as your plotting. Discover how to create scenes, and make them work for your fiction.
- Coaching: from plot to print. Two one-hour sessions of coaching, via email, or phone. You’ll receive practical advice you can use immediately. You’ll also receive an Action Plan, so you know exactly what you need to do, going forward. (Your Action Plan is customized to you, and the way you like to write.) This is an $800 value.
Write fiction: thrills and spills (excerpt)
Here’s a brief excerpt:
Generally, you begin your novel in “ordinary” time. That is, with your main character’s everyday life. She has problems, but she’s used to them. Nothing has happened to make her problems unbearable. Tough as things are, your main character presses onward.
Of course, your story starts very quickly—your character’s ordinary life no longer works. Bad things happen, so she must act.
About beginnings—whenever I talk about beginning a novel in ordinary time, at least one author will ask: “but shouldn’t you start with something exciting?”
That’s a brilliant question.
There’s no real answer to it either, because how you start your fiction is your decision—and every book is different. It all depends on how you see your novel, serial, or novella, or whatever it is you’re writing.
You can start with ordinary time, or with a bang.
Let’s imagine a scenario in which you’re writing a murder mystery.
Should you begin with the murder? Or with your detective having breakfast with his wife?
It’s your choice. If you’re a fan of the Midsomer Murders British mystery series, as I am, you know that each episode begins with excitement; with a murder.
That’s because in Midsomer Murders, the mystery is all-important. Inspector Barnaby and his sidekick are secondary. Each episode begins with the puzzle which the detectives (and viewers) will solve over the course of the episode.
So when you’re wondering whether you should start your fiction with an exciting event, or your character’s ordinary world, consider what matters most in your novel. Is it your ingenious plot? Or are you more intrigued by your characters?
When to use the checklist
When you write fiction, this checklist will be of most value after you’ve completed your novella or novel. Not finished yet? Read it for inspiration, then put it to use when your draft is complete.
Get the expanded checklist now…
This plotting system works for my students, and it it will work for you. It's 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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When you improve a book's blurb, you can rescue books which aren't selling, and have confidence that new books will have the best chance to find their audience.More info →
Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.