Last updated on July 14th, 2017
As you probably know, writing a book can be very difficult, which is why I want to give 10 tips on how to write a fiction book.
Write a Fiction book – Top 10 tips
1. Vary sentence length
When writing sentences for my books I have the tendency to write a lot of simple sentences, with a few complex and compound mixed in. I do not vary my sentence structure often enough, but I would encourage you to do so. Changing sentence structure helps give a book pop. The sentence can be lengthy to help show passage of time or explain something, or the sentence can be shorter to match the tension. For example, instead of writing:
“The dog ran to the store to find his owner so he could tell him about the house burning down. When he got there, the dog barked and ran around in circles to alert his owner. The owner did not realize what the dog was trying to tell him, so he ignored him, hoping no one would notice. The dog jumped on the owner and caused the owner to stubble backwards into a pile of tomatoes, sending the tomatoes all over the dog and the owner, splattering everywhere. The dog licked the owners face, and for a split second, forgot the house was continuing to burn down.”
Instead write something like this:
“The dogs hair whipped him in the eyes as he ran to his owners place of work, the supermarket. At the supermarket, people were bustling everywhere, and the dog had to fight his way into the store. The dog caught sight of the owner. He barked. The owner turned, embarrassed, ignoring the dog. The dog barked again. He ran in circles around the owner. The owner ignored the dog. With haste, the dog jumped on the owner. The owner backpedaled into the tomatoes. Tomatoes everywhere. The dog licked tomatoes off the owners face, and for a split second, forgot the house was continuing to burn down.”
2. Read books not in your writing genre.
I write fantasy/action adventure/thriller/horror/christian. While it’s helpful for me to learn what other people in my genre are writing, I would recommend reading more books of what you do not write. These could be classics like Hemingway or Steinbeck, or newer authors like John Grisham or James Patterson. If you’re a Christian writer like me, then I would also read classics like Bunyan or Tolkien, or newer authors like Karen Kingsbury or Ted Dekker. When reading these books, look for how the author differs from your own writing, or how the author incorporates different ideas. Perhaps you are a suspense writer. I would recommend reading a romance book to learn how a popular author integrates a love story that is rich and compelling. Then put that information in your writing. This doesn’t mean you have to create a romance book, but a romance within a suspense book.
3. Watch your use of “ly” adverbs
Most people, including myself,
naturally write with a lot of “ly” adverbs. Adverbs are exceptionally easy to do, but using them is also lazy writing. Instead, if you write an adverb, try, with great pain, to exchange the adverb for something else. Only after eliminating every other avenue of word choice, and you cannot find a suitable word choose, should you then keep the “ly” adverb. *Note: sometimes you will notice that the adverb is unnecessary and can be deleted, as with the two adverbs in my first two sentences of this fourth point.
4. Create realistic characters
This goes without saying but without interesting characters, no one will want to read your book. In a future post I will explain more in detail how to make this possible, but for now you should focus on creating three dimensional characters. The characters should show both strengths and weakness and should fail and succeed in various situations.
An evil character who hates everyone and wants them dead is a shallow character. Shallow characters do not change throughout the story. Having shallow characters is not
necessarily always bad, but if all your main characters are shallow, I would look at adding depth to the character(s). A better three dimensional character is one who hates everyone and wants them dead, but doesn’t show it to their face. In fact this person, to the outside world, is loving, but on the inside he hates everyone.
To not create a stereotypical character…
You would need to add more about the character. Why does this character have this specific desire, to hate everyone? Did his parents not love him as a child? Perhaps all his friends have rejected him? It is possible he had some painful experience as a child and doesn’t trust people. Whatever the case, the pain inside this person should progress to the point where he wants everyone to die. Normally, a person like this does not just wake up and have these desires, but it is a slow process. Thus, you would want to
eventually create a mannerism that shows the characters true trait. Maybe this antagonist is nervous around people or fidgets with his hands. Maybe he glares at people, or talks poorly bad about them behind their backs. The tension throughout the story could become whether this character will lash out at people and succumb to his deep down desires.
5. Start the book with tension.
Going off the fourth point, instead of starting a book explaining the setting or by using only an action scene, try starting a story with a main character failing something. The tension could be action as long as it fits into the strain of the opening story. For example, instead of starting a story with someone dying, have a character struggle to not kill someone and then they do. Therefore, a three dimensional character is born. Maybe he didn’t want to kill someone, but he needed to, or his greater desire (to kill someone) overtook his desire to hide it from everyone else. The rest of the story could be him hiding his mistake in the opening scene.
6. Don’t get off guard with subplots
Subplots are fine to have, but don’t get carried away with them. To help the book stay focused, a good idea is to use the main character(s) desires. What is their focus? What is their plan-of-action? Then, center the book around the main character(s) trying to achieve that desire. Bring in hindrances to their desire and make the main character(s) struggle for that desire. In other words, a subplot should help the main plot, not distract from it.
7. Show, don’t tell
Using the example of the story about the dog, I could have just told how the dog went to the store and things happened. But that would be a boring story. Instead of telling how something happened, describe how everything went down. This is
especially helpful when there is an action scene.
8. Understand the structure to your book
In my opinion, this is probably the easiest to understand, but the hardest to do well. If you have written a book before, and it includes a sagging middle, you know what I’m getting at. Your book should have a beginning that grabs the reader, creates mystery, and ultimately helps turn the pages. The middle should be a solid story that drives the main character(s) to achieving their desire(s). Or perhaps the desire is not achieved. The ending should have a turning point and possible a plot twist. The plot twist is useful if the book is a suspense thriller. At the end of the book there should include a resolution. Are you restricted to using this structure? No, but the best books often do this. Otherwise, the book would be boring.
9. Start small
If you are struggling in writing a long novel, don’t force it. Say your book is supposed to be 80,000 words, but you can only get to 25,000 words, don’t write more. If you cannot write a 25,000 word novella, then write a short story or a novella (a shorter novel). There is nothing wrong with short.
Which brings me to my last tip on how to write a fiction book…
10. Watch the use a character real name in dialogue/Use subtexting
It is common for writers to make the mistake of using a persons name, in dialogue, instead of pronouns. In fact, in daily life, when I speak with people I find that they often will not give the persons when speaking about someone. I am supposed to figure it out.
Which brings be to the last point of this tip…
Hide within dialogue, or a scene, subtexting. That is, do not always say what you mean. For example:
“I love you so much!” Exclaimed Martha. “I could just give you a huge hug. We should hang out more! Soon! Yes please, soon!”
Martha embraces Joe and doesn’t want to let go. She loves him, even though it’s the first date, she could marry him.
Joe pushed Martha away and fumed. “I don’t love you.” He walked away.
“Why not! I had a good time. Didn’t you?”
Joe continues to turn away from Martha and walks away. “No!”
Do something like this instead:
Martha leaned into Joe and gave him a timid, but friendly touch. She looked down and hesitated. It’s their first date.
I don’t want to screw this up.
Martha glanced back up at Joe. His face was stern and his body began to turn away. At once, Martha’s heart sunk, and she hide her face from the oncoming pedestrians.
Could the first example happen in real life. Possibly, but it is very
unlikely. What is different with the second example? It shows how a woman, unsure of how the man would respond, hides her feelings for him. The man is not interested in her. The date did not go well. He wants to get away. In fact, he is not willing to walk her home, drive her, or even talk to her. It creates a lot of mystery. What happened on the date? Why are they going separate ways? Martha shows her pain by wanting to hide her feelings, even from the unknown crowd. She is not willing to respond to Joe’s rejection. Why should she? It’s only their first date.
Then again, the first example could be a good way to show an obsessive overbearing woman. It could setup a stalker story…