A Guide to Fiction Writing | P1: Getting Started

Develop a foundation for your fiction writing and focus on what matters: your story.


This is part one of a three-part guide to help you with your fiction writing. Much like my guide to nonfiction writing, I'll cover good practices to implement from the beginning in part one (this one!), grammar and punctuation standards to keep in mind in part two, and finish up with some general tips in part three. Let's get started!


Preparation and Key Considerations before Writing



Style Guides


First things first: style guides! As an editor, I wish more of my fiction-writing clients would use style guides. They help you stay consistent with your word choice, spelling, and punctuation – something that many authors overlook.


Furthermore, they can even help you make sure that your characters' voices, personality traits, and appearances stay consistent. This goes for details about your scenes and settings too.


When you are finally ready to pass your manuscript off to an editor, providing them with your style guide will help them make sure your writing stays consistent and will save a lot of back-and-forth between the two of you during the editing process. If you need help developing a style guide, reach out and I'll send you a free checklist.


What's your genre?


The absolute first thing to consider is the genre, as this will give you a clear idea of the language you’ll use as well as how to organize your story. There are many different kinds, with seemingly new genres invented every other week. Let’s go through the main ones:


* Biography (documenting the life of someone through the author’s point of view and imagination)


* Literary (focus on the characters’ internal worlds rather than external events and circumstances)


* Time Period (setting the plot in any historical period for effect and intrigue, such as the Old West, Ancient Rome, or during the Aztec Empire)


* Women’s Fiction (a focus on female characters as well as their relationship with society, difficulties, and a range of other avenues)


* Genre Style (this category alone includes most types of fiction. This includes whether the fiction piece is fantasy, psychological, science fiction, romance, adventure, action, mystery, thriller, or crime, to name a few!).


Who is your audience?


Once you’ve got an idea of the plot and style, it’s now time to focus on a certain group or demographic.


One of the major groups here will be age. Within the fiction genre, there are many sub-genres that specifically target a certain age group. New Adult writes for college audiences, whilst Young Adult focuses on those between 12–18, and so on.


While it may seem worthwhile to focus on several groups, it’s much better to hone in on one. Doing so doesn’t mean other age groups won’t want to read it – people of all age groups read the Harry Potter series – but it will help you to market your book when it's ready to be released.


What type of English will you use?


When it comes to dialect and English varieties, fiction writing is more fluid and non-restrictive than nonfiction. As you can set literally any scene from your imagination, you can choose from (or even swap between) various different English dialects, allowing the reader to get more engrossed in the plot. If it's within your skillset, you can also have characters code switch between different languages and dialects.


Having said that, character development and consistency are important, so once you have revealed that particular character and personality, keep it somewhat the same throughout (or allow changes if the character goes through “life-changing” experiences). Again, this is where a style guide can come in handy to help you keep track of these things.


What are your goals?


Now you’re almost ready to unleash your plot! The last important piece of advice to consider is what your goals are. Are you looking to start a cult following for a new genre you’ve invented? Or how about informing readers about what life was like during the 15th Century in Europe?


Consider your motivations for writing. Are you looking to become the next best-selling mystery author? Great! However, you’ll want to make a plan to keep it realistic and also achievable within a certain time span.


I recommend using the SMART formula to set concrete goals. In short, make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.


Get started!


You're now ready to start writing, and there's no time like the present! A little bonus piece of advice for you: don't overthink, don't procrastinate.


It's an editor's job to help you perfect your writing; it's your job to write. Don't let your doubts and fears get in the way, have fun, and get cracking!


Want more tips? Stay tuned for parts two and three and, as always, feel free to reach out for a consultation.


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