A man in an old-time vest stares thoughtfully down at his manual typwriter.

Photo © Andrea De Martin | Dreamstime.com

Time Savers for Fiction Writers

  1. Use templates wherever you can.  It’s common to  resave the last file and delete what’s not needed, but this is an incredible waste of writing time. Plus, it’s super easy to make mistakes.  Create a manuscript template, even an email template for submitting stories.  Don’t add more work when you don’t need to!
  2. Use a style sheet to record character and place names.  This helps not only the copyeditor check your work, but also helps you if you have trouble remembering how to spell a name. Style Sheets for Writers and Editors | The Editor’s Blog (theeditorsblog.net)
  3. When you finish a scene for the day, jot down a brief summary for your future self.  Just your thinking about what’s next, or even the hidden story (what the antagonist is doing).  It’s just something to help you get into the creative flow next time you start. Leave a Summary for Yourself – David Perell
  4. Take the time to learn the software tool you use for writing.  It’ll save you a lot of frustration during the writing because you won’t interrupt your creative flow to figure out something like how to get rid of that extra space between paragraphs in Word. 

Research for Fiction Writers

  1. When you take research notes for your story, only put down what you need–and in your own words.   With programs like Evernote, it’s tempting to want to copy everything.  But that’ll turn into a junk drawer that’s of no use to you. Teachable Workshop: How to Take Digital Notes with Tiago Forte – Forte Labs
  2. Trifolds for trees are a great research shortcut to adding detail to your story.  These show the names of plants your character is mostly likely to see.  Find them at your bookstore.  Waterford Naturalist Guides – Field Guides – Products (acornnaturalists.com)
  3. Base your world on a real place that you’re familiar with it.  Makes it a lot easier if you aren’t recreating it from scratch.  Research can be done any time you’re out and about.

Writing Description in Fiction

  1. If you find yourself overusing look, scowled, smiled, or my personal pet peeve, smirked. use it as an opportunity to flesh out your scenes (which doesn’t mean add more plot!) Fiction University: 5 Ways Repetition Is Hurting Your Novel (janicehardy.com)

    Bonus tip:  If you’re thinking of using smirked, look it up first to see what it means.  A lot of writers think it makes the same thing as smiled.  It doesn’t! “Smirk”, and other words to avoid – kt literary
  2. Observation skills are a muscle you have to exercise on a regular basis. The only way to get at the telling details that bring a story to life is to pay attention to the telling details.  How the heck to do a telling detail? – Linda Maye Adams
  3. If you’re having trouble with characterization, add more description.  Description is a great way to show characterization because you’re showing it through the character’s eyes. Depth in Writing – Dean Wesley Smith
  4. Add the 5 senses every 2 pages. Most writers don’t add enough of this (it’s hard to do), so if you do it, your story will stand out from the crowd. Author, Jody Hedlund: 5 Tips for Writing Better Settings

Writing Scenes in Fiction

  1. To pace your story, alter not only the sentence length, but the paragraph length.  Faster pace = short sentences and paragraphs. What the heck is pacing in a story? – Linda Maye Adams
  2. Make sure you know where your characters are in the scene.  It’s really easy for your character to walk through the walls!  You might even have to do a crude diagram of the room layout.
  3. Close the loop on your character’s actions.  If the character says he’s going somewhere, make sure he leaves the room.  It’s shocking to see how surprisingly easy this is to skip over! Amazon.com: Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing) (9780898799064): Jack M. Bickham: Books
  4. You sell your next story with your ending. And the ending isn’t the climax. It’s the validation, that piece you see in TV shows where the characters get together and wrap things up.