What makes a good fiction writer? Every once in a while I get asked that question (or a question that resembles it) and I've decided to create a post explaining my thoughts upon the matter.
Every good fiction writer doesn't start out as one. In fact, when I first started writing, I made horrible spelling mistakes, run-on sentences, punctuation errors, and various other slip-ups that I would now consider to be very silly of me. Good writing is all about practice, which leads me into my first point.
1. Practice Writing
Every day, sit down with a notebook and pencil/pen, or with your computer, and start writing. It doesn't really matter what you write, as long as words are being formed. Don't worry about spell-check or how it sounds. Just write. Before you know it, words like there and their won't get mixed around, or that letter you keep leaving off the end of that word will start appearing.
2. Read More
A lot of people think that you don't need to read to help improve your writing, but I'm here to tell you that they're wrong! Reading books, newspapers, essays, etc. written by other people will certainly help you understand the written word. You may undercover new words or a style of writing you actually enjoy. Reading is a very important part of writing.
3. Keep Track of Your Ideas
When an idea walks through your mind, make sure it doesn't run away! Grab a pencil/pen and jot that sucker down! If you have a good memory, by all means, remember it for later. But I recommend writing every new thought down. You will feel pretty disappointed if you sit down at your desk later to discover that the amazing idea you had was suddenly gone.
4. Pencil & Paper Vs. Computer
Some people like the feeling of keys under their fingers. Others enjoy the sound of lead scraping against paper. I used to write everything with pencil and paper before I switched over to my computer. Using a writing program is more convenient and practical, but there's no harm in doing it the old-fashioned way! It's just more experience under your belt.
5. Use Your Personal Experience
Stuck for ideas? Take a walk, go hang out with some friends, enjoy the park or the swimming pool. Sooner or later, something will come to you. It's not just about sitting at your desk in silence, contemplating ideas so hard that you become stressed. This is not what writing is about. Writing is fun! You should make it feel that way.
6. Write the Easy Pieces
Sometimes you just get to a point where you don't want to write about that long, dreadful walk through the haunted forest. So don't. Choose a part later on in the story and write about that. Write about something you are looking forward to, that you are excited to write. Come back to that eerie walk later and perhaps only write bits at a time.
7. Remember to Take Breaks
This is important. When you find your pencil is getting short or your eyes are becoming painful from staring at a screen, stop. Take a break, go have some coffee or grab a hot shower. It's time to stop looking at words before you have nightmares of them chasing you while you sleep.
8. Create an Outline
I always do this. I find it to be extremely helpful, especially if you're just starting out. Summarize your story or your piece of writing. Create points that carries what you want to be written in an organized way. Then when you finish a point on the list, check it off and have a cookie for accomplishing it.
9. Do Something Unique
Tired of writing the same story everyone else does? Try something new! Create a story that's directly from your own imagination. You'll be amazed at what's inside your head when you dig deep enough.
10. Create Challenges
When you don't want to write about trees and rocks and mountains anymore, try to push yourself to an entire new level. Chances are, you're going to love the outcome so much that you'll use what you wrote in your story.
11. Get a Second Opinion
This is optional, but if you really want to know you're doing well, ask someone to read what you've written. Don't just ask anyone, though. Ask someone you know will be mature enough to critique your work the way it deserves to be critiqued. Accept good criticism and try to improve upon it. Don't kill the messenger or become down upon yourself. They are only trying to help you be the best you can.
12. Absolutely NO Copying
Do I really need to explain this one? Don't copy other people's works. Not only will the authors be angry with you, but you'll also be in a lot of trouble. People like to keep their ideas their own. They don't want others stealing from them or taking their amazing thoughts and twisting it into a different plot. So be careful what you write.
13. Don't Be Negative
A negative attitude towards writing won't get you very far. You should wake up in the morning with a positive outlook on the day. Get dressed, eat, then get down to business. If you don't feel like writing that day, then don't worry! Don't stress yourself out with thoughts like, "I'm never going to write again..." If you don't feel like it, then take a break and try again some other day.
14. Don't Give Up
This may sound similar to the previous point, but it's slightly different. Don't quit at writing, especially if you love it. Some days may be rough, but you'll work it all out in the end! Writing takes time and patience. Devote both to writing and you'll be fine. If you don't have the time or patience to continue, then just wait a while. Wait until things slow down and you have time on your hands again. You'll feel great when you actually finish what you started without quitting. Trust me.
15. Most Importantly, Have Fun!
Don't look at it like it's a chore or something you have to get out of the way. You shouldn't feel that way. You should have fun and enjoy yourself. You should enjoy creating the words you write. If you aren't having fun, then perhaps you shouldn't be a writer! Or at least approach writing in a different way.
To sum things up ... just get out there and start writing! Sure, it takes time and practice, but the end result will always be pleasing. You'll never know unless you try. So remember these tips and apply them to your life. They will come in handy!
Take care. :)