In a previous post I admitted to struggling with writing fiction because I’ve been trained as a journalist. Describing a scene, developing a character, and writing dialogue are shared story components of both fiction and non-fiction, but creating it all “from thin air” as opposed to reporting reality can require a bit of a jump for newbie fiction writers.
Here are 3 Tips I’ve used to help make the jump from reporting to fiction writing:
You know that one great story you tell at cocktail parties of that one thing that happened to you that one time that never fails to leave your friends hysterically laughing? Instead of telling it as a first person account, write it in third person, describe the scene, build your “characters,” and move the story with action and dialogue.
This practice works because you know the story well enough to build the plot and fill in the details. And who knows, maybe writing out all of these autobiographical stories will make a great book someday!
“Interview” Your Characters
This is a roundabout way to discover the details of the scene, personalities of your characters, and words they would use to describe the action, but when you are used to writing non-fiction and using the words of experts to weave your story this is a great way to get good at fiction writing.
Take notes on what you have so far – scene, action, emotion, characters involved, etc. Now pretend you are a reporter “sitting down” with each character. What would they say about the situation? How would they describe the scene? How would their personalities and biases frame their thoughts and words?
Once you have an outline of their take – in their words – you can begin to shape your story in a way you are used to, just using a different voice.
Use this method often enough at the start and pretty soon you can skip it and go straight to writing your narrative. It’s simply a way I’ve devised, as a trained journalist, to bridge the gap to writing fiction.
Join a Writer’s Group
If no man is an island, then remaining isolated from others as you write in the privacy of your home is a discouraging thing. Studies show that we are more productive when we are surrounded by others – a sort of subconscious competitive spirit emerges. Take advantage of that spirit to not only spark your motivation, but also take advantage of the brains and opinions of your fellow man by joining or forming a writer’s group. Everyone needs support and everyone needs criticism to produce their best work.
The most difficult thing about quitting my job to be a writer is that I no longer have a workplace full of the energy and ideas of my coworkers. Coworking spaces for freelancers are beginning to pop up in cities across the nation. Evening writers groups can be found at your local bookstores and libraries. You don’t even need to have a physical space or see people in person to achieve the benefits of feedback and motivation. Even though we live miles apart, a good friend of mine is in the same boat, and so we decided to form an online accountability partnership. Each week we will share what we are writing, read each other, and provide feedback. Not only does this give each of us a deadline to produce results, but we are each other’s support system and editorial board.
These are just a few of the ways I’ve adapted to writing fiction. If you have any other tips and tricks, feel free to share them below.