Tips for Writing a Fiction Book (Part One)

I plan to write a mini-series of tips for authors who are beginning to write a fiction novel. I feel that there are common practices between successful, engaging stories and will attempt to lay the groundwork for beginning novelists searching for fundamental principles that most readers expect from novels.

Know Your Story: Outline

Most beginning writers have a great idea for a story, but don’t have enough story for a great novel. Novels usually entail a vivid creation of characters within a particular time period and/or world and just having a “sweet idea” won’t automatically create a fleshed-out story. This takes some effort…this takes an outline.

I know that a lot of people will argue that outlining will destroy the creative process and inhibit spontaneity. I will somewhat agree in that too much planning could be corruptive to the flow of writing or story development, but not enough structure can lead to a truncated adventure, diluted characters, or too many subplots that cloud the main story.

The obvious thing to do is find your own happy medium with the outline…one that gives you enough structure to begin, tell, and end your story but allows for you to have some flexibility with your characters and plot.

One suggestion would be to break up your storyline in chapters and then write a short summary for each chapter. Doing this will let you visualize how each incident will begin and end, giving you a more focused plot while eliminating opportunities for wandering characters (unless your novel is actually about a wandering character, in which case I would still suggest an outline).

A benefit of writing an outline or summarizing each chapter is that you will have a definitive end which makes it easier for most people to write. It’s very frustrating for many novelists to just write, write, and write without knowing the ultimate destination. For many individuals (including myself), having the objective in sight gives more purpose to the story leading up to the end.

More to Follow

In upcoming Individual Project Topic entries I will discuss tips to help develop character strength and how to expand your main storyline to keep readers engaged.

Do you have any tips for writing novels? Leave a comment below or write to

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Luis D. Bonilla
Wordszilla, LLC

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