Some Notes on Writing Fiction

I’ve recently joined a local writers group, and a few weeks ago the group’s leader asked for any advice or rules of thumb we might have to offer other writers. Here are a few.

When writing fiction, think in terms of scenes. Each scene must include at least one of the following: a decision action that propels the plot, a character making a decision to take such an action, or a discovery that changes a character’s relationship with other characters and affects future actions. A scene is about at least one of these things happening. A scene typically builds to one of these things, and if a scene seems rambling or listless, focusing its actions and language toward one of these things will often bring it back on track.

A story begins as a shopping list and finishes as sheet music. In the beginning, there’s something you want: either something you want to get down or some scene or action you want to start with. Eventually, though, when a draft of the story is covering all the action the story should contain, you need to turn to the sound of the words (which ideally you have been attending to all along). Sound and rhythm should support and enhance other effects in the story. Don’t neglect them.