Fiction Writing - 10 Tips for Beginners
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Fiction Writing - 10 Tips for Beginners

Beginning fiction writers often get carried away with their new hobby. They dash off a book and think it is ready to be sent to a publisher. This is the worst mistake a new fiction writer can make. This article shows the timeline and strategy that new fictions writers should consider when they embark on fiction writing with a view too becoming a published author.

10 tips to ensure your fiction writing career gets off to the right start

Here are my 10 tips for beginning fiction writers to assist with formulating a strategy to enhance the chance of eventually becoming a published author –

Tip 1 – Get ready to become a fiction writer

Ask yourself how much you know about fiction writing and what you will need to learn to equip yourself with the expertise to take on the huge task of writing and editing a fiction book.

Make sure you have a dedicated computer that nobody else accesses. Get into the habit of doing a daily backup of your computer data onto a separate hard drive.

Tip 2 – Reading books by successful authors is one of the best ways to learn correct writing techniques

Read books of the type that you aspire to write. For example, if you want to write crime fiction, study how the experts write them – authors such as Michael Connolly, Harlin Cobin, Lee Child – and many others. This is not an exercise in copying their style. It is an important component of knowing what publishers view as publishable.

Tip 3 – Study fiction writing techniques

Enroll in writing courses, read books about writing, attend seminars and conferences and practice the various techniques you will need to be able to write a book. Set yourself exercises to test your writing abilities. One example is to write a 500 word conversation between two characters on any topic, inserting dialogue tags, actions and character thoughts (viewpoint). Examine your work for correctness of punctuation and read the conversation aloud to hear how it sounds. Does it sound like natural conversation or is it stilted and non-reflective of the characters in the piece.

Tip 4 – Don’t try to work on more than one project at a time

Stick to 1 major project at a time. This is enough for a beginning writer to handle. If you want to write short fiction to fill in, that’s okay. Getting a short fiction piece published is advantageous when you submit your book length project to a Publisher.

Tip 5 – Project planning assists with keeping your book on track

Plan your project carefully and the story will be easier to write. Prepare extensive character biographies for each of your main and secondary characters. Do an outline of at least the first three chapters of your book. This should include how each scene is structured, what the scene should do for the story and a transition to the next scene/chapter.

Tip 6 – Write a set number of words every day

Discipline yourself to write at least 1,000 words a day. This is equal to about four (4) A4 pages, double spaced.

Keep a record of how many words you write at each session. If you miss a day, schedule how you can write additional content to keep on track.

The first draft of a 90,000 word novel should take about 3 months to write if you are dedicated and disciplined.

Be aware that the first draft of a book is just a "working document". Most books require a massive amount of editing before they are anywhere near ready to be submitted to a publisher.

Tip 7 – Learn how to re-write and edit your book to upgrade the content

Learn how to edit your work properly. I go by this rule –

  • Writing a fiction book is only one fifth of the job.
  • Editing a fiction book is four-fifths of the job

Even when you have completed this amount of work, your book will most probably not be ready to submit to a publisher. The advice in Tip 8 is vital to your ultimate success as a fiction writer.

Tip 8– Don’t submit your first book to a publisher

Resist the temptation to submit your first book to a Publisher. This is harsh advice, but there is a very good reason for holding back until you have written at least two more books. Very few first books are accepted for publication (there are exceptions). It is better to develop your style and advance your knowledge of writing, than to show an Editor you are not really not up to scratch. After you have written a few books, you will be surprised at how much better you write. Going back to Book 1 should make you cringe and glad that you didn't try to get it published as soon as it was finished.

Tip 9– Synopsis writing and how to submit to a publisher

Do you know how to prepare a submission to a publishing editor? This involves writing a killer synopsis and a professional submission letter. It is worthwhile spending quite a bit of time learning the correct way to handle this aspect of your submission.

Tip 10– Fine-tuning a manuscript and proof reading

Fine-tuning your book for submission (after putting it away until you have written at least two more books) is an additional task that will take more time, depending on the quality of your original writing and editing.

Your book should be proof read by at least two people who are competent at this task. Proof reading should also be done on a printed copy of the book – not on the computer screen. Instruct them not to read the book – cover all but the line they are proofing with a sheet of colored paper. Some proof readers work backwards from the last page of the book to the first.

Submitting a manuscript that is error free should be your ultimate goal when submitting your work to a publisher. Unfortunately, too many aspiring fiction writers don’t seem to get how important this is. Missed words, poor punctuation, inaccuracies, and so many other little things you might have missed during general editing.


Becoming a successful fiction writer is no different from becoming a top golfer or accomplished pianist. Expertise and success doesn’t come overnight. It can take years to perfect writing techniques, book structure and the many components of writing a novel. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get to your ultimate goal – publication. Take time to become adept at all the writing techniques that will show a publishing editor that you know what you are doing. There are very few overnight successes. Doing a well planned writing apprenticeship will pay dividends in the long run. And remember – publishers don’t buy books – they buy authors. You will need to have more than one book ready to submit to a publisher. If they like your first submission and you don’t have more work to offer, you might be passed over in favour of a writer who has product to sell.


An excerpt from my book Becoming a Fiction Writer – from the chapter “Things every beginning fiction writer should know”

© 2012 – Susan Jane

Read my other fiction writing articles

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