fiction writing

The Ten Commandments of Fiction Writing

Writing is an art. A writer is similar to a painter who sits with an easel, a canvas, and a paintbrush in hand, trying to put his ideas on paper. Writing a book involves tons of research, but in fiction, that is not the only pre-requisite to produce a bestselling novel. Here, we list down the ten commandments of fiction writing, which when adhered to will help you produce the best work:

1.Write everyday

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many writers think it is sufficient to pen down their thoughts when inspiration strikes. Talent is not the only criteria that will define your success as a writer – a writer needs to be persevering as well. Perseverance is the difference between a completed manuscript and a half-written one. Set a schedule and stick to it. Don’t procrastinate. Make sure to take out two-hour blocks of time from your day and claim it for writing. No matter how busy you are, ensure you stick to your target and complete your manuscript within the stipulated time.

2. Avoid a predictable story line

Sometimes, when we write a book, we fall into the mindset of creating a predictable story line, so that every reader can associate with it. But where is the joy in achieving something predictable and easy? Rack your brains and develop your ideas in a unique fashion. Put your protagonist through a lot of trouble, solve those issues and develop their character as the pages turn. All romantic stories don’t need to have the same tragic or happily ever after endings – there are unchartered waters in every genre. Utilize that to your advantage and keep the reader glued to your book. Let them be surprised with how your story develops and ends.

3. Make sure you have an outline before you start writing

There are very few writers who can write without an outline and can go with the flow of the moment. Most writers require structure and will need to plan their plot carefully before they start writing. An outline is essentially a draft – it is the first copy where you put down your important thoughts and the phrases you definitely want in your book. Always write a draft and keep revising it till you reach a point where you’re happy with the storyline.

4. Know your characters as well as you know yourself

Your characters are the most important aspect of your story. They can make or break your book and linger in your reader’s minds long after they finish reading it. An antagonist is as important as a protagonist and it is necessary to portray them in the right light. Always remember to develop them as the plot progresses and note down the intricacies of their personalities.

5. Read a lot of books in your genre

Reading and writing are mutually inclusive events and one cannot exist without the other. To write better, read. To develop your plot, read. When one starts to work on their novel, they are bound to get stuck at some point of time or another. To combat writer’s block, read. The best way to be a fantastic writer is to be a voracious reader. Try to read more books in your genre, so that it would give you an idea of how to unfold your story. But be careful to unintentionally not plagiarize another author’s work, as that is a possibility when one keeps reading books from the same genre.

6. Try to indulge all five senses of the reader in your book

A book needs to indulge all five senses of a reader – sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. If these aspects of the story are missing, then the book might feel flat. Nobody experiences the world through just one sense, hence try to captivate your reader by taking into account all senses when weaving your story.

7. Tie up loose ends

Never leave a story hanging. Sometimes, writers leave the storyline hanging, so that readers can imagine the ending. But not everybody enjoys that; this is not real life for loose ends to remain untied. Always try to end your character’s journey somewhere, so that the reader is not left second guessing your work. This will also leave the reader wanting to read more of your other books, if you provide an interesting conclusion to your story.

8. Make sure you understand your target audience and do not keep jumping genres

A book written without a target audience in mind is not going to sell, as it will not be marketed to the right set of people. A writer can start a story as a romance and add a thrilling element to it, but they cannot keep jumping genres to the extent that it is incomprehensible which genre the book falls under. A children’s book needs to be promoted as just that – it cannot have certain kinds of elements to its story, just like a murder mystery cannot be incorporated with children’s books characters.

9. Trust your editors

An editor is the best resource a writer has. They can suggest the right changes that need to be made on your manuscript to bring out its best. An editor will not rewrite your story or change your plot – they will only help identify the plot-holes and refine your character sketches. It can be frustrating when they ask you to make changes and rewrite certain portions of your book, but remember that they have your best interests at heart. They will have more knowledge of the market and will help your book appeal to your target audience.

10. Develop thick skin

As a writer, you are bound to face rejection at one point or another. Rejection hurts. No matter how many books you have published, one or more of your manuscripts will inevitably be rejected. If your manuscript gets rejected, try to evaluate the reason why and work on it. You can also start pursuing other projects, which may be the key to your success. Accept criticism gracefully, irrespective of whether it is constructive or not. The only way to survive in this industry is to develop a rhino skin!

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Aishwarya Mukundarajan

Aishwarya is an MBA graduate from Symbiosis International University, Pune. When asked what her hobbies are she points to an overflowing bookcase.

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