You May Be a Fiction Writer

I always thought it would be fun to write fiction. After all, it’s just made-up stories, right? So, I started writing, and I enjoyed it immensely. Well, until I realized my stories needed a plot to make sense, and some sort of structure and plan. I needed to learn the basics of fiction writing.

Off to the bookstore I went, to find a couple of self-help books. But, I’m more of a hands-on learner. I closed the books, and put those principles into practice. All right, I was onto something. It was looking good. Until I sent my first chapter to a critique group. I was so embarrassed by all the corrections, and the not-so-gentle suggestion, “…you really need to polish this more before you send it in…”

Maybe fiction writing wasn’t as easy as I thought.

How do you know you’re a fiction writer? What clues you in?

Here’s what led me to believe I may be destined to write fiction:

  • My mother. She called me a storyteller a long time ago. It wasn’t a compliment.
  • Years of living in my imagination–my “happy place”–creating stories in my head.
  • Reading my way through the fiction shelves at the local library. While reading, I was figuring out a better way to tell that story.

You might be a fiction writer. But–brace yourself–it’s not easy. Matter of fact, it’s a lot of hard work. You not only have to begin a story, but end it, and the ending, or “denouement” needs to make sense, and satisfy the reader. Quite the challenge, especially in this age of instant books, when writers crank out multiple novels a year. Their loyal readers devour those novels as quickly as they appear. How did they do that? Let’s dissect the thing and find out.

Write. Sit down and write. There’s no substitute for it. Tell your story, as only you can. And, while you’re at it, learn the craft. Read, study, follow blogs, take classes, attend conferences. Fellowship with other writers. Find a good critique group–this last one is essential–truly the best way to learn. Notice I said, GOOD critique group. Find a group, either in person or online, that will challenge you and help you grow as a writer. As Sara Turnquist said in Back to Basics – How to Start, choose a group that has at least one published author.

A good work of fiction includes…Even in fiction, facts are not only welcome, but necessary. What makes a really good story? It’s believable. It could really happen. It mirrors real life.

Like the house built on sand, a story with no foundation will quickly wash away, and its writer will look very foolish. Include a factual foundation, such as, basing a story in a real place, or using everyday articles that might be found in someone’s home. Sometimes, good characters and engaging dialogue are enough to ground the story. Think of the best scenes in your favorite movies. Don’t they usually include dialogue and interaction between the characters? They become real in those moments, and you become part of the scene. That’s great fiction.

Showing … not telling–One of the greatest commandments of fiction writing! Fiction is a finely-crafted work of art. A really good story doesn’t just tell you what’s going on, it shows you. You get so wrapped up in the story, you feel what the character feels, see what he sees. You’re emotionally involved. I read an excellent blog post on this subject, written by Cindy Sproles, on The Write Conversation. You can access that article here: Writing With Emotion.

Read good fiction. Find writers whose books you love, and read. I use the following list of questions as I read:

  • How does the writer make me want to turn the page?
  • What draws me to the lead character?
  • When are the stakes raised?
  • How does the writer integrate minor characters?
  • What makes a scene work?
  • What’s the key to the conflict?
  • How does the writer handle dialogue?

These questions also work with television shows and movies. The answers can be very revealing. What are the author’s strong points? What are his shortcomings? What’s your takeaway? Challenge your own writing in this way, and you’re bound to improve.

I don’t claim to know it all, because I don’t think it’s possible to learn all there is to know about writing. It’s an ever-changing scene that needs to be edited and updated, molded to fit genres and themes. And there’s no way I can tell you all you need to know in 750 words or less. But, if you really want to learn, and you want to excel at the craft, or at least develop your personal style and voice, you can achieve that.

Click to Tweet: I jumped in, feet first, and guess what I learned? It really is fun to write fiction.


Writing Prompt: Your main character (Jill) has just moved to a new city, where she’s taken a job. Jill accepts a coworker’s invitation to an informal gathering. As she steps inside the room, describe the scene, using conversation between Jill and the coworker.

Back to Basics: Types of Classes for Writers

By Jennifer Hallmark

So you want to be a writer. You’ve heard the stories about writer’s block, low pay, long hours, little feedback on blogs, and book sales you can count on your fingers. But you aren’t deterred and excited about your future anyway.

My number one piece of advice?

Learn. Study the craft. Dissect books and movies. Gain knowledge on publishing, editing, and your computer. Immerse yourself in what goes on in the writing world.

There are many classes you can find in schools, groups, and on the Internet about the basics of writing, advanced courses on the craft, and all about publishing, marketing, and online ventures. I’ll make a list below. It’s by no means exhaustive, but I’ve learned a lot with a smaller amount of money than you’d think.

Education-If you’re still in school, there are high school writing courses. College offers writing classes and majors such as professional writing, technical writing, journalism, business writing, creative writing, publishing, and communications. You can also find community education classes through your local Board of Education or college. Many of these run for six weeks or so and can jump-start your career. My adventure in writing began with a six-week writing course at our local Board of Education.

Blogs and/or Websites-For years, I’ve followed blogs and websites that teach an aspect of writing I’d like to study. For social media, I go to Edie Melson’s The Write Conversation.  I read and write for the Southern Writers Magazine author’s blog. The Write Life is helpful for freelance writers. I also follow the Positive Writers and here’s their list of the top writing blogs in 2017. Check them out for the ones that can help you.

Conferences-I love to attend writing conferences to learn, network, and just hang out with other like-minded people. Workshops are offered as one-time learning experiences.

Practicums are smaller classes with hands-on experience offered. Continuing classes are usually a series of studies held throughout the conference where each day expands more on the topic of study.

Writer’s Groups-I belong to two types of writer’s groups. One meets in person monthly, the other is online. I enjoy each group for different reasons. Beside local groups, here are a few national ones: ACFW, RWA,  Word Weavers, and Poets.org.

Writing Coaches or Mentors-During my twelve-year career, I have had some wonderful people mentor me. It’s great to have someone show you the ropes to avoid the pitfalls you can find in writing. Writing coaches can also be helpful, but it’s easy to pay too much with little improvement to someone who says they can help. Research coaches and mentors, looking for testimonials from people or groups you know.

I hope this quick overview of classes will help you find your way through the maze that is a writing career. Come back and visit our blog throughout the year to read about first-hand experiences in writing, marketing, social media, and other subjects of interest.

Click to tweet: My number one piece of advice for writers? Learn. Study the craft. Immerse yourself in what goes on in the writing world. @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #writing

Maze

Remember: Here at the Inspired Prompt blog, our goal is to educate and inform writers, with an emphasis on new and Indie writers. We offer clear, basic information in four areas: how-to, marketing, encouragement, and our “signature” prompts, thoughts, and ideas. We hope to inspire writers/authors to reach for and attain their personal best.

We want to see you have a “significant” career in what you love to do…

WRITE.

Writing Prompt: Sue stopped in front of the cold, metal door and took a deep breath. Her first class and…

  

 

BACK TO BASICS: How to start

Back to Basics

Hello, all! I’m author Sara R. Turnquist. I’ve been doing this whole writing thing for most of my life. I was a “closet writer” for many years before I let anyone read my work. Once they did, I was on the fast track to publication. My first book published in 2015 and I have since published seven other titles.

IMG_7676I often get the question from friends thinking they would like to write or aspiring writers I may meet: How do I get started?

Not the easiest question to answer, but I will share what I have gleaned–things I did well and things I wish I had done better.

WRITE THE BOOK. Delve into writing the best book you can. You are likely wanting to write because you have a story in you that is fighting to get out. You have that seed, that nugget, a bit of inspiration. Get it on paper. Let it be ugly. But start writing. Then learn how to write better. How do you do that?

READ BOOKS ON THE CRAFT OF WRITING. Anything by James Scott Bell, Brandilyn Collins, or Jeff Gerke is solid stuff. Some of my favorites include The Emotion Thesaurus and Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View. There are tons of books on craft. You just have to jump in somewhere.

CONFERENCES. I cannot say enough about the difference investing in conferences has made for me. It’s like college for writers! You have the opportunity to learn from those further along in the craft, network with other writers, gain experience at pitching to an agent/editor (or even land a contract). These are a few of the biggies. I recommend starting with a smaller conference so you don’t get overwhelmed. And I recommend Bob Mayer’s Writer’s Conference Guide: Making the Most of Your Time and Money.

FIND A CRITIQUE GROUP. Join a critique group, even if it’s online. Find one that has at least one published author. Otherwise, you might be the blind leading the blind. There is some danger in certain groups that the most talented writers are “picked at”. Be on the look-out. A good critique group will give you feedback, but do so constructively. They will encourage and support you.

WRITE THE BOOK. Are you still writing the book? Cause that’s what it’s all about. You must have the book. It’s really about the book.

MENTOR. Find a writing mentor. Someone in a critique group who is further along than you, or someone you meet at a conference. Mentors are great for teaching and encouraging.

LEARN ABOUT QUERYING. Query Shark is a great resource about writing queries. Be mindful to research the agents/publishers you want to submit to. Follow their guidelines to the letter.

BUILD A WEBSITE/BLOG. If you even think you want to write, you need to start building a PLATFORM. I know…big, scary word. But you will need to market (I know, another scary word) yourself and your book, so you need your own website, a place to build your fanbase where your readers can connect with you. And you cannot rely on Facebook or Twitter solely (although you can and should market here), as they could  disappear any day. Building your e-mail list through your website is the best way to maintain contact with your audience.

READ OTHER AUTHOR’S BLOGS. Like this one! Or mine (saraturnquist.com)! Author blogs can be valuable sources of information. Jerry Jenkins has a great blog as well. I follow five blogs consistently where I make regular comments so the bloggers get to know me.

WRITE THE BOOK. In the end, it’s still about the book. These other things enhance your experience and knowledge, but you cannot forget it’s about your idea, your story, your novel. Never lose sight of that. And there will be days you don’t feel like spending time with your book writing, editing, or revising. But it is necessary. If it is important to you, you must make yourself sit down and work. Once you do, even if you need a writing prompt to get started, the pump will be primed, and the juices will start flowing. And just let it go from there.

TheLadyandTheHussites500x750AS FOR ME. All of these things still hold true. I keep “writing the book”. And now, you can check out my latest title, The Lady and the Hussites, book two in my Lady Bornekova Series.

WRITING PROMPT: I met my favorite author yesterday, and he/she told me the best advice was…

Click to Tweet: Write the book–that’s what it’s all about–Sara R. Turnquist on Back to Basics: How to Start #InspiredPrompt #amwriting