So you think you want to write fiction…

Write a million stories.

Write a hundred bad stories. Write short short stories and long rambling neverending tales that you’ll never finish and will eventually give up as a bad job. Write different genres, point of views, settings, voices — anything to mix it up in the early stages. When you ‘finish’ drafts, rest them, read them, revise them, then, if you can read them without cringing, submit it somewhere. Or, if you still hate it, take it out back and shoot it, and when I say shoot it, I mean put it in an archived folder and almost never, ever go in there.

Do not read bad fiction.

It will seep into your subconscious and soak into your writing style. In the early days especially, you’re a little fiction sponge — mimicking, consciously or subconsciously, other writers. So make sure you only read books you enjoy, as you’ll pick up on more nuances as you go. You won’t even realize that you’re struggling with how to describe a character’s emotion, or how to show action, and then you’ll read (in your good fiction) a similar scenario and your brain will go, ‘Ooh that’s how they did it.’

Read so much.

Read as much as you can. Listen to audio files of your favorite stories while you work, or drive or go for walks, etc. It’s okay if you’re not fully paying attention — the words will soak into your subconscious.

Do not write and edit at the same time.

You will hate yourself, your writing, and your god of choice. Creativity and analytic thinking are two separate parts of the brain and they do not mix.Write first (literally no editing — take notes if you must), edit later, and preferably only after a rest. Letting the writing rest before you review and edit is critical — you’ll have fresh eyes and a clearer perspective.

Create a system for notes.

You’ll be chugging along writing and then all of a sudden you can’t remember a side character’s name, or you realize there’s a continuity issue, or hell, maybe you just want to describe something and you can’t think of the right word. These mental tangents detract from your writing, but aren’t things to be ignored or forgotten about either. Make a note system that’s easy to spot and easier to implement. Once you find writing flow, try your damndest to stay in that flow as long as possible. You can use @@double @ signs to sandwich notes@@, because when in fiction will you ever have those? [Or bold like this.] Or just make your notes bolded and italicized.

Write at the same time every day.

Your body and mind will subconsciously anticipate it and you’ll be better primed for creativity. THIS IS REAL HARD. Especially starting out. If you challenge your schedule by waking up early or rushing other to-do’s to make time for writing, your body will rebel and try to convince you to quit. Don’t listen. Keep showing up. Even if you only get 50 words written and can only stay for ten minutes. Keep showing up, keep improving your sessions day by day. It will change your writing.

Create a writing home base.

If you’re able, make a writing space of your own. Doesn’t matter where, or how fancy, but make it homey and comfortable and fill it with a few of your favorite things. Light candles, hang inspiring art, always snuggle with your favorite blanket — whatever feels right for you.

Listen to the right music.

Set the music according to your mood, or listen to thunderstorms (try Create a playlist for your work in progress, or find an atmospheric artist (like Pretty Lights), or go classical with Mozart, but avoid songs with prominent lyrics.

Use Google Docs to write on the go.

Ideas come at odd times, and you might realize what’s wrong with your plot in the strangest of places, but I bet you almost always have your phone nearby. Waiting rooms and desk lunches are perfect for revisions and edits, and Google Docs, and other similar platforms, keep your documents easily accessible and automatically saved.

Keep paper notebooks nearby.

Some ideas come out better on paper. Notebooks are great for brainstorming. Sometimes you won’t be able to work out why something doesn’t feel right until you write it out. Give yourself permission to talk to yourself on the page, even if you say: ‘This feels stupid and I hate it and this character sucks. They should be more like…’

Give yourself permission.

You’re allowed to make mistakes. Be nice to yourself. Be nice to your fellow writers, no matter what stage of the journey they’re on. Allow yourself to experiment without the repercussions of a self-administered beatdown.

Published by Shannon Ferretti

Shannon Ferretti - Writer. Author. Rap God.

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