Sunday, February 28, 2010
Becoming a Fiction Writer: A 10 Step Guide
By Rob Parnell
The urge to write fiction seems God given for some, a learned skill for others.
One thing is certain—it requires practice and a particular mindset. But, if you’re a beginner, where do you start?
The following 10 tips will help kick-start your writing habit, whether you’re a complete novice, or perhaps a pro who has lost his or her way!
1. Step Away From the Car, Sir.
Slightly detach yourself from your surroundings. Stop participating and begin observing. In social situations, watch people, see how they act and—more importantly—interact.
Don’t pass judgment. Take it all in—and draw on it later when you write.
2. Look Harder, Homer
Stop and look around you. Consciously notice the buildings, what’s underfoot, overhead, and what’s right in front of you.
At home, look at something you take for granted. An iron, for instance. Find yours and study it.
3. Write Thinking Will Be Rewarded.
A simple technique. Your mother is making tea and you are chatting to her. Take a mental step back and describe the scene.
Similarly, when you’re outside, describe your environment as though you were writing it down.
4. What Reasons Do You Need?
Don’t wait for inspiration—just write!
Force yourself to write anything at all. A shopping list. An overheard conversation. Describe your bedroom.
It doesn’t matter how personal it is, or how trivial, just get it down!
5. Wakey Wakey!
Set your alarm clock for an hour earlier than normal.
When the alarm goes off, get up. Don’t dress, bathe or eat. Don’t even make coffee. Just stagger to your writing space and write the first thing that comes into your head for five minutes.
6. Oh, God—Not That!
Think of the most awful and embarrassing thing you’ve ever done - the more cringe-worthy the better. Now write about it. All of it, in all its gory, horrible detail.
Then hide it away for a year or so before you read it again!
7. Like Your Style, Baby.
Don’t limit yourself. Write poems, songs, dialogue, fact, fiction, even practice writing advertising copy or horoscopes.
Your expertise improves in all areas – an improvement in one area can reap benefits in another.
8. The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Take out a classic book from your bookcase. Copy out a paragraph. Think about the words as you write them. Don’t get intimidated!
9. Wanna See My Invention?
When you’re not writing, string together stories in your mind. Think of plots, characters, settings, dénouements.
Ask yourself what you should do next to improve your writing.
Develop this technique into a habit.
10. It’s a Goal!
When you start writing regularly, set yourself small goals. Anything from 200 words a day, or just a commitment to writing in your diary.
Later extend to finishing a short story, or an article or a poem. Perhaps one in a week.
The trick is to set goals you can achieve easily.
That way you’ll get the writing habit - and you won’t forget to enjoy it.
Rob Parnell is a prolific writer who’s published novels, short stories, and articles in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, and a teacher who’s conducted writing workshops, critique groups, and seminars.
Please visit Mr. Parnell’s Web site at: