101 of the Best Fiction Writing Tips, Part I

by Suzannah Windsor Freeman

Woman smiling with laptop on grass

What if someone went through the biggest and best blogs on the internet, and pulled out the very best-of-the best tips for fiction writers?

That’s what I’ve attempted to do here. I can’t guarantee there aren’t some amazingly helpful writing tips that I haven’t included, but this is a good start.

I’ve also tried to steer clear of really obvious tips like “show, don’t tell” or “make your characters unforgettable,” in favour of ones that are less often discussed.

To learn more about the tips, click through to their original articles.

101 of the Best Fiction Writing Tips, Part I

  1. Calling characters by their proper names in dialogue almost always sound phoney. 5 Creative Flaws that Will Expose Your Lack of Storytelling Experience. Storyfix
  2. There’s never a perfect time for writing, so stop waiting for it. Why There’ll Never Be a Perfect Time to Write. Daily Writing Tips
  3. Be selective about what you include in your story. You don’t need it all. Six Structural Problems Writers Face & How to Fix them. Beyond the Margins
  4. Increase the stakes for your characters to prevent sagging story middles. When Middles Sag. Writers in the Storm
  5. Use a waterproof dive slate to take notes in the shower. The Three Writing Tools I Can’t Live Without. Writer Unboxed
  6. Avoid extended dialogue without sufficient grounding. Five Openings to Avoid. Nathan Bransford
  7. To write a better book, write your query letter first. Write Your Query First for a Better Book. Writer Unboxed
  8. Bigger doesn’t mean better. Use simple words instead of deliberately choosing big words. Just Call It Freaking “Green” Already. Writer Unboxed
  9. Writer’s block might mean you’re trying to write something you’re not ready to write. Advice from Jonathan Franzen. Gotham Writers’ Workshop
  10. Epiphanies are overused in fiction, and can be boring. The Problem of the Eureka Moment. Beyond the Margins
  11. Your novel shouldn’t be a thinly-disguised memoir. 12 Signs Your Novel Isn’t Ready to Publish. Anne R. Allen
  12. Try to use all five senses when writing each scene of your book. 5 Tips for Writing Better Settings. Jody Hedlund
  13. Don’t describe silence as ‘deafening’. Things to Avoid [in Writing]. Glass Cases
  14. Prologues usually just encourage infodumps. Prologues–This Side of Hell. Behler Blog
  15.  Using defense mechanisms can increase the tension between characters. Using Defense Mechanisms for Characters. Roni Loren’s Writing Blog
  16. Less is more when it comes to describing your characters. Why Less Detail Makes More Believable Characters. Plot to Punctuation
  17. In action scenes, vary sentence length and structure to increase or decrease speed and excitement. Tips on Writing Action Scenes. The Other Side of the Story
  18. Evaluate your story by defining its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. How to S.W.O.T. Your Story Over the Fence. Storyfix
  19. In first drafts, you don’t need to know everything. Use placeholders (like X) as reminders to research a detail later. First Draft Secrets: Five Simple Steps. Write to Done
  20. Sometimes the most important moments in dialogue is what isn’t saidWhat Isn’t Said: Subtext in Dialogue. Author Culture
  21. Try using an ambiguous ending to create a plot twist (often works well in short stories). 10 Ways to Create a Plot Twist. T.N. Tobias 
  22. Avoid overused, obvious symbolism in your fiction. The Obvious Symbolism Police. Glass Cases
  23. Dialogue should reveal emotion through words, not adverbs (eg. “she said angrily”). Tips for Improving Dialogue In Your Novel. The Creative Penn
  24. Know everything about your characters’ backstories, but write about only 10% of it. Character Planning. Procrastinating Writers
  25. Your protagonist can’t be easily satisfied. He needs to want something badly. Can You Write a Publishable First Novel? Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Thanks to all these amazing bloggers for their valuable advice! Which tip is your favourite so far?

Now, head over to:

{ 15 comments }

PenPoint Editorial Services August 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Love this!

What a great help, thanks so much for compiling it.

Nicole Andrews August 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Great list!

Cindi August 24, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Thanks so much for compiling this list. Not only is it specific, but you included the links to the sources so we can follow up on those pieces of advice that best fit our situation now. That makes the list very user-friendly. I will be referring back often. Thank you again.

florence fois August 25, 2011 at 1:09 am

Great post, Suzannah and wonderful resources and references :) I recognized some of these and will look up some of the others. To save time and money I shop to cook, cook to freeze and defrost when I need to eat. Use the character to write, write until it’s done … then leave it and when you are ready to work … take it out and devour the parts you need and throw the left-overs in the trash.
Read florence fois´s last article ..Agent Contest … Prompt #9

Jackie August 25, 2011 at 1:49 am

Great tips! This is really helpful. I’m including this on my weekly round up of writing links.
I can’t wait for the rest of the list!!
Read Jackie´s last article ..All Stories Begin in One of Two Ways…

Anne R. Allen August 25, 2011 at 3:34 am

I’ve got two in there! I wondered why I was suddenly getting so much activity in my archives, and saw it was coming from here. Those are all such great tips. I’ve got some of them bookmarked already, but others are new to me. Love the one on prologue info-dumping. What a great list. I’ll be back for the rest. Thanks! Posting it to Google+, FB, Twitter. A whole writing course right here.
Read Anne R. Allen´s last article ..RIP the Author Book Tour—and why you shouldn’t be sad to see it go

Suzannah August 26, 2011 at 7:59 pm

What can I say? They were great articles, Anne! Thanks for sharing this list, too :)

Elle B | Later Bloomer August 25, 2011 at 5:11 am

Wow! One of the best posts ever, Suzannah. Can’t wait to spend time studying all the new writing sites you’ve introduced me to.
Read Elle B | Later Bloomer´s last article ..Sharon Penman Takes On William Shakespeare

Suzannah August 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Thanks, everyone! Glad to see you’ve each found some helpful tips here, and that you’re enjoying the original articles. Part II is posted now, too!

Lori August 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm

This list is amazing, Suzannah! Thank you so much for putting it together and sharing it with all of us!

Roni Loren August 31, 2011 at 3:53 am

What a great list! And thanks so much for including one of my posts! :)
Read Roni Loren´s last article ..Creating Strong Female Characters by Sierra Godfrey

K.M. Weiland September 2, 2011 at 4:55 am

Fabulous list! I’m honored you included my post from the AuthorCulture blog.
Read K.M. Weiland´s last article ..Why the Human Element Is All-Important to a Story’s Beginning

Prem Rao September 18, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Thanks for such a wonderful list, Suzannah. I am sure it will be of great use to many like me who are always seeking to improve their fiction writing skills.
Read Prem Rao´s last article ..Book Titles- What Works For You?

Melissa Sugar September 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm

This is very useful information. I found a few good writing tips that I remember knowing, but with all of the information I read on”how to” write, I simply forgot. Thanks for the advice & for taking the time to give us helpful writing tips and not just the standard canned tips we can find everywhere. I will head over to the follow up post on this in the morning.

Iulian Ionescu July 18, 2012 at 7:10 am

Oh, God, now I will spend my entire night reading ALL of these… Thank you so much, this is great info! Amazing effort to put this all together.

Iulian
Read Iulian Ionescu´s last article ..Why You Should Write Short Stories

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