Writing Tips & Advice

Fiction Writing: Short stories
1. Brevity is the soul of short-story writing. It’s best to have one main character protagonist with one main goal
and one main antagonist to keep the complex “simple.”
2. There should be character growth at the end of the story. Some positive change works better than negative,
because readers prefer it, but it’s your story; so you “takes” your chances, if you go negative.
3. Make every word count in your description, exposition, and dialogue because you’re dealing with a sprint pace, not a
marathon of words.
4. Vary the sentence lengths, don’t use the same words over and over again and be precise as well as concise.
5. Remember, conflict is the prime mover of fiction; without it you don’t have a story, just an anecdote.
6. Dont forget adding lots of tension, too. Tension is conflict’s first cousin and is really important in keeping your reader interested in your short story.
7. Tension is also important in novels and movie screenplays  as well. See below for what else is important for those longer mediums.

Fiction Writing: Novels (In novels anything goes)
1. Start with some kind of action (dialogue equates to action also) to grab your readers’ interest in the beginning.
2. Then hold their attention by moving into the inciting
incident as soon as possible that kicks the story into a
higher gear and gets it going in the direction the protagonist wants it to go. Remember, the protagonist needs something, wants something, has to have something
(exaggeration is the key here). Don’t forget conflict and growth of the protagonist by the end of the novel.
3. Introduce the antagonist as soon as possible and make
him/her as strong as possible, which will make the protagonist work harder and look better when he/she wins.
4. Don’t forget to give your minor characters unique qualities to be interesting allies or irritants for the
protagonist. Stay away from cliche minor characters; think
up different memorable traits for these support people. They help keep the story moving and add color.
5. The backstory of your novel should have some event or incident to have happened that affects your protagonist and is the foundation stone to support his/her quest and the story line itself. Yet, the protagonist wasn’t directly
involved with it; still it has an “effect” that “affects” him/her and the story.
6. Viewpoint is the key in fiction writing. Whose story is it? It will lead you to pick the right person to tell the story in first person or third person (subjective or objective)viewpoint.
7. Recommended book: STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL by Robert C. Meredith and John D. Fitzgerald, Harper Perennial.
What can fiction writers learn from writing screenplays?
1. To start their short stories or novels with action rather than description or background information. Something big is preferable. A memorable visually written scene is best to grab the reader’s or the viewer’s attention.
2.Vary the scenes in the screenplay; same for the novel.
Too many long action scenes in a row can get wearing and
exhausting. Too many slow scenes with nothing happening can get boring.
3. Brevity is required in screenplays; it wouldn’t hurt in some places in your novel or short story. Spoonfeed the
description and the exposition in brief but poignant doses to keep from slowing down the story while still maintaining your viewer’s or
reader’s interest in it. Motion pictures mean motion. Keep the characters moving on screen. Same for novels: keep the story moving on the page and keep your characters involved. Remember, in screenplays as well as in novels and short
stories, you are dealing with emotions and that means drama with lots of tension. Note: tension is even more important than action in fiction. Readers and viewers crave involvement with the story. They want to laugh, to feel sorry, to feel good, and to love the
characters. They want to see them change for the better, and to root for them
to win. That’s why positive endings work the best. Hey, give them their money’s worth, or they’ll go someplace else for their entertainment.
Nonfiction Writing:
1. Use everything suggested in fiction writing.
2. Include anecdotes as well to add color in brief segments.
3. Hook the reader in the beginning of an article, essay,
or book with something interesting and “punchy” and keep it up with facts, stories, anecdotes, scenes, information.
The key is to give information while entertaining the reader who is mainly after facts, figures and/or advice.
4. Use expert sources for verification to build reader confidence in the text, which will foster his/her acceptance of its premise while removing all doubt concerning veracity.
Children/Juvenile/Young-Adult Writing:
1. Children writing is mainly for preschool such as picture books. Suggest studying picture books in bookstores and libraries to get the hang of that writing specialty.
2. Juvenile writing involves chapter books. Translated: more text, less pictures. Age categories vary and the
text gets more involved as the age group gets older. The
Harry Potter series tosses all the old rules about writing for
juveniles “out the window.” Check the Potter books out. Recommended book for writers interested in this area as well as for young-adult writing is THE GIBLIN GUIDE TO WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS by James Cross Giblin, a Writer’s Institute Publication.
3. Young-adult books are for 12 to 14/16-year-olds; the writing can get more involved, and can be about subjects that are taboo for younger kids.