Creative Writing Techniques for the Beginning Fiction Writer

If you’re a working content writer, chances are you’ve considered trying your hand at fiction. Whether you’re looking to pen the next Great American Novel or hoping to hang the “ghostwriter for hire” sign in your proverbial yard, you’ll find that fiction writing is a whole different ball game.

The Basics

While rules are arguably made to be broken, beginning fiction writers would do well to pay close attention to some of the key elements of fiction before striking out on their own. You can find a number of quality technique books, but it’s also good to keep in mind that the rules of fiction are not terribly complicated:

  • Plot. If you’re interested in writing suspenseful, action driven thrillers, then you’re probably ahead of the game on this one. For those of you looking to write a beautifully rendered literary tale where the protagonist thinks wistfully in a bay window, well, think again. Plot drives story. Give your characters something to do, and you’ll give your reader something to root for. Establish a clear goal early on, then work to throw in complications along the way. You’ll know you’ve reached the climax of your story when your main character reaches the critical moment where they succeed or fail in achieving their goal.
  • Character. Think of the great literary characters throughout history: Scarlett O’Hara. Jay Gatsby. These characters are larger than life, and their motivating drives are crystal clear. Write your characters with distinct features and make sure you understand what motivates them. Fear? Love? Justice? Once you give your reader a sense of what matters to your character, you’ll give them a way to relate and keep reading.

Resources

There are a number of excellent resources for the beginning fiction writer to help you get and stay motivated, receive feedback and support, and develop your understanding about the fundamentals of fiction:

  • The Time Is Now. Hosted by Poets & Writers Magazine, this site offers quality weekly prompts to get your creative juices flowing.
  • NaNoWriMo. For the hardcore beginning writer, this online home of the National Novel Writing Month challenge includes active forums and writerly “Pep Talks” by established and burgeoning writers alike.
  • Zoetrope. Founded by Francis Ford Coppola in the late ’90s, this site features a “Virtual Studio” where writers can post fiction, screenplays, and other creative work to receive feedback from fellow aspiring autuers. While you don’t have to pay to play, you do need to contribute meaningfully. Contributor reviews are ranked using a star system, and all writers must read and review at least five pieces for every one they submit.
  • Duotrope. A clearinghouse of information on submission guidelines, payment, and response statistics for thousands of literary and commercial markets.

Writing fiction can be personally satisfying and potentially lucrative if you manage to snag a ghostwriting gig, so grab a prompt and a notebook and get cracking!

Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

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