How to start writing a fiction book

NOOB, How to Guide

Editing & Beta Readers, Plot & Conflict, Publishing.

Fiction Writing

My methods are for fiction of any length.

Most everybody agrees the opening line / paragraph / page of fiction needs to hook the reader. A lot of magic goes into these hooks, and they are far more art than science. But I think on a base level you need to show what your story is about or the genre or something else that will inspire readers to continue.

Writer’s Habit

This is pretty simple if you understand Pavlov’s Dogs. In Pavlov’s Dogs, he rang a bell before feeding dogs. After a while, the dogs would salivate just on the ringing of the bell with no food offered.

Some people hate this method, they completely want to strike whenever the iron is hot.

Eventually, I evolved it to the point where I do the same things every time before writing but in 10–20-minute sprints, and 3-4 of those a day. Not literally ringing a bell, loading my word processor, having Coffee, the same music, some people do a 10-20 minutes yoga session or quick workout or tea. Every time before you write.

Different Word Processors

I always used to use Microsoft Word for all my writing, now I’m just using it to format my books. I switched to LibreOffice which is free, and if you research the template system, you can create a default template which matches the Standard Manuscript Format.
I haven’t downloaded Scrivener. I hear it’s like pure gold.

Outlines

I don’t really like outlines but I know some people need them. It’s just a personal preference, some stories I outlined.

One scene

Any more, I find I have one scene in my brain, and I need to get that scene written down or typed up, then I’m waiting for the next scene. So, I do the 10-20 minutes session with my habit, then a 2–3-hour break, then I’ll get that next scene.

Getting that next scene is pivotal, and I cannot really explain how it happens or give you a magical process to get that next scene. Sometimes a drive helps, sometimes a walk, sometimes going to a nice restaurant. It’s so different for everybody.

Character Sketches

You should have detailed files on your characters, treat them like a role-playing character in a game and build them up. Favorites, appearance, philosophy, beliefs. All of it in a separate file. This is a very necessary step, it’s so important.

I fail at this. it’s one of my weaknesses.

Base them on your friends at first

They’re going to be based on your friends and family and tv show characters. You mostly cannot escape. You’ll develop this great character, and they’re amazing. Then you realize this character is from a cartoon you were into when you were ten years old. Just embrace this.

Tropes

From a grand perspective all the tropes have been done, and have been done for 1,000s of years. Over 99% of all stories created in the modern era from a broad perspective have been done. Settings change, characters change, but the tropes have been done forever. And I don’t know if 99% is accurate, but most say 100% of the story tropes have been done.

It’s something we have to accept as writers. You can be the 1% who develops a new trope, but a lot of times you’re looking at it from a narrow view, and in a broader view it’s been done.

Bad Words

I’m not talking about adult content or swear words, I’m talking about the idea that every writer, editor, and reader, have words they hate. I cannot give you all of them. Every list of these is different for every person.

Just, Really, She saw, She heard, All forms of To Be unless it cannot be worked out, Was, Were, There was, There were, It was

Other words could go on this list, my short list.

Dialog

Most say use contractions. It may seem silly, but especially in dialog, we talk in contractions. We definitely don’t go from using them to not and back again.

Said

Said once in a while is good. If there are two speakers going back and forth, you can skip the said the reader can figure it out. Feather in beats / actions the dialog. He tipped his hat. He rubbed at his temples. The list is almost infinite.

She smiled or she nodded or she laughed has become cliché. If you want to use these, elaborate more. She grinned like a pumpkin. Or use them very sparingly.

Emotions and reactions

You’re showing emotions and reactions with these beats + actions, but it’s got to be feathered in lightly or becomes a mess.

Dialog is both art and science. Good writing makes it become totally seamless for readers. They don’t see the mechanics or care about the mechanics, people are talking and that’s how it reads.

I travel in straight lines

Beginning chapter to end chapter all in a row. Other people jump around, craft the ending, save writing the beginning until the rest is done. Up to you. For me it’s a straight line.

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Copyright, Geoffrey C Porter