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A Beginner's Guide to Writing Fiction: 8 Powerful Writing Tips

The 8 Writing Tips for beginners will help you become a better writer, sooner than you think.



Writer Smita Das Jain


When it comes to writing, especially fiction writing, you are on a journey as much as your characters. Writing is a skill, and like any other skill, it can become better with practice. To master the art of writing, you have to make writing an integral habit in your routine.


The 3 (and a half) Types of Fiction Writing


As a new writer, you can explore different types of writing before finding your forte. The three most common types of fiction formats are:


1. Short Stories


With a lesser word count than a novel, a short story is a good starting point for new writers. You can start learning the principles of fiction writing by experimenting with characters, setting, plot and genres within a limited word count. This also means you have less space for all the ‘flab and fluff’ and have to convey the point to the readers within the limits of time and space, which is a great challenge to master.


Short stories are further categorised into various formats basis of their word count:


  • Six-word stories

  • Drabble- Hundred Word Stories

  • Quintale- Five Hundred Word stories

  • Flash Fiction- Up to one thousand words

  • Short Fiction- One thousand to two thousand words

  • Short Story- Two Thousand words plus. Most short stories are between two thousand and five thousand words, though some go upwards of ten thousand words.


2. Novellas


A standalone piece of prose fiction shorter than a full-length novel but longer than a short story. Generally, a novella is between twenty thousand to fifty thousand words.


3. Novel


A fiction format is considered a novel once it crosses fifty thousand words. A standard novel is around eighty thousand words, while anything over one lakh ten thousand words is considered too long a novel.


4. Poetry


A standalone writing format in itself, poetry is too lyrical to be considered non-fiction and too personal to be considered fiction. However, it provides a different creative outlet for emotionally driven writers to play with form and structure other than prose.


7 Things to consider when choosing a topic for writing fiction


1. Plot


A plot is the fulcrum around which your story revolves. It is a roadmap comprising of beginning, conflict, resolution and ending of your fiction. When starting with writing, you can create a fictional world from a familiar environment- your workplace, neighbourhood, home, city, etc. As you write more, you can gradually brainstorm many creative plots before zeroing on the one that appeals to you and will keep readers engaged.


2. Characters


The protagonists, antagonists and supporting characters of your fictional world. They are the ones upon whom the readers will display the emotions of love, hate, shock, awe, etc. Your characters are realistic people in a fictional setting unless you write in fantasy or science fiction genres. You must build characters that readers won’t forget in a hurry.


3. Setting


The year, era, geography, milieu and the environmental backdrop against which your plot is based. It is better as a beginner writer to establish your story around an environment you are familiar with- your home, workplace, neighbourhood, school, city etc.


4. Genre


It describes the style and focus of the fiction that you write and provides the blueprint for your work.


As a writer, genre controls what you write and how you write it. The genre of your work also tells the reader what to expect from it.

There are seventeen popular genres in fiction: Romance, Adventure, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Suspense/Thriller, Horror/Paranormal, Mystery/Crime, Young Adult, New Adult, Historical, Family Saga, Westerns, Women’s Fiction, Magic Realism and Literary Fiction. Often, there are one or more sub-genres in the story within the primary genre.


5. Personal Experience


Fictionalising personal experiences is an excellent way to start a new piece of writing. Your memories provide great fodder for writing as you have an immediate point of view and can recall textural details that make your writing more specific. Particularly evocative memories—like the first time you rode a bike or a fun date that went awry—make for great pieces of fiction for a new writer.


6. Issue


A compelling and divisive issue in contemporary society that you feel strongly is a great way to develop both fiction and non-fiction pieces. As a writer, you will find your fingers moving fast on the keyboard and a writeup ready within no time once you have put the issue or point of view in perspective.


7. Point of View/Narration


Who is telling the story to the readers? You can write fiction in the voice of the first person, second person (least common) and third person (most common). The PoV also decides what is revealed to the readers at which stage of your work.



Writer Smita Das Jain


8 Writing Tips for Beginners


Writing is not that difficult but becoming a better writer is a lifelong pursuit. That said, certain tips and methods can take your writing to the next level:


1. Read every day


One of the prerequisites to being a good writer is to be a reader. You will find it challenging to find a good writer who isn’t also a voracious reader. The more you read, the more you enhance your vocabulary, grammar, sentence construction, syntax etc. Appreciation of different writing styles will enable you to develop your own. Reading every day means you are enriching your writing skills daily. Make it a habit to read something every day, even for fifteen minutes.


2. Write every day


You may have wonderful ideas in your head, but it won’t do you any good until the ideas are put on paper and take some shape and form. Commit yourself to a daily writing routine- either time based (one hour daily) or output-based (five hundred words daily). There are techniques for writing daily when you don’t know what to write. Practice makes perfect, and writing is no different.


3. Use writing prompts and exercises


Prompts and exercises are handy for new writers to practise writing and develop their personal writing style. Prompts provide you with the structure to explore the first sentence of a story or a premise for a novel that exercises your brain’s creative muscles. Some people find structured prompts and exercises especially helpful at the beginning of their writing careers.


4. Keep an observation journal


Everyday life is stranger than fiction, and your experiences can give you valuable information about what to write. Keep a daily observation journal to record what you see, hear and feel in your real life—this will be a helpful reference when you are looking to generate your story ideas.


5. Join a writing group


Starting a writing group is a great way to network with fellow writers and crowdsource tips on the writing process. The structured and detailed feedback from fellow writers in a group enhances your writing style.


6. Take writing courses


A writing course is an excellent resource for beginner writers to get advice and feedback from established writers. You also learn more about the craft of writing and get opportunities to practice the craft through various exercises.


7. Give attention to rewriting


Rewriting is a big thing. The first draft that you will write will be full of errors and not in shape to be published. You have to redraft, edit, redraft and edit them multiple times for your writing to reach a specific shape and form. Invest time in rewriting. Use online tools such as Grammarly to edit your work. Your stories are worth telling; make sure you tell them well.


8. Create the best writing environment for you


Sitting in a room surrounded by family, with the TV blaring all around you will not be the ideal writing environment. You need to find a corner, either at home or outside, which has everything you need to write. Find out what tools and environment work for you- do the headphones you use help in drowning the noise of the outside world? Find your writing jam. Does the soft music playing in the corner help you to free write?


The Last Word


Writing is more about consistency than skill, more about practice than talent. If you have passion for the subject and enjoy what you do, you can do it well. Just keep at it.


Every expert writer made a beginning at first. You can also make your mark.


As a beginner writer, consistency in writing will make a difference in your emerging as a great writer or a good writer.


Smita Das Jain is the bestselling author of ‘A Slice Of Life: Every Person Has A Story.’ An SRCC and IIM Indore Alumna with 14+ years of leadership experience in Fortune 500 companies, Smita is a Personal Empowerment Life Coach and Executive Coach by profession, and a writer by passion who writes every day. Her award-winning stories have been published in The WriteFluence 2022 Anthology, Women's Web 2022 Anthology, The Auroras and Blossoms 2021 Anthology, StoryMirror, Penmancy, Women's Web and Twist and Twain. Smita has been featured in The Pioneer, The Daily Guardian, and New York-based Authority Magazine. Readers can access her creative fiction published on multiple platforms at https://www.smitaswritepen.com/


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