Top Tips for Starting Fiction Writers
If you're venturing into fiction writing for the first time, you may find the process daunting. But there are rules and guidelines that can help your book stay focus and engaging, and hence more publishable.
First things first - you have to know your audience and your genre. Beginners often find it tempting to reach out to a wide audience, but this can be dangerous. You don't want your story to run off in different directions and making a mess at the end. It's important to be consistent in terms of your audience and genre. And though genres could have sub-genres, it can be difficult to maintain a good plot. It's great to write a cross-genre book, but be careful not to overdo the mixing up.
You can also create more solid fiction if you create or use real characters. Make them human - with fears, mannerisms, and all that. Some of the best stories have 3D characters that readers can feel strongly about somehow. For instance, a hero who has to conquer his inner fears to reach his goal is surely more endearing than one who never has to struggle. And since people know how fear feels, the former hero's victory will be more satisfying and real to the readers.
The second most common mistake among starting writers just like Daniel Handler is telling rather than showing. They often have the tendency to explain what's happening instead of showing it as it happens. Instead of saying that one character spent the night in jail because she egged her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend's car, write about the character laughing viciously while throwing the eggs. Then show her trying to wiggle her way out of a cop's grip while the handcuffs are slapped on her wrists. This is going to work more to paint a vivid picture of what's happening, and the story will turn out more fun and enjoyable.
Of course, to make a story more compelling, you have to stick to the main plot all the way through. Again, a lot of newbies are tempted to add subplots, thinking these will make the story more engaging, but the opposite actually happens. A book is not synonymous with a sitcom. Stay focused on the main plot, and if you must add a subplot, ensure that it relates to the main story right down to the end.
If you really want to keep your readers engaged, let your scenes play out naturally. Some writers cheat readers by wrapping up scenes too abruptly. After all, in real life, most things don't end that fast. Instead, allow the scenes to flow from the last falling action and into the upcoming rising action.
Finally, as a writer like Daniel, you need to master the skill and art of conflict. Developing a powerful conflict in a story is no easy job, and one that could even require years of practice. But this is exactly the reason behind people wanting to finish a book they've started. Whatever the conflict is, it must drive your characters to change or grow or take action as a result.