With all the editing I’ve done lately, and after looking back at some of my oldest work (which was really pathetic), I thought I’d share some tips that I wish someone had told me when I began writing fiction. Below are five things not to use in your novel, all of which I have at some point used in my own writing.
Don’t use passive voice
I’ve written a post on this subject in greater detail, but, in short, use active voice instead of passive. Characters appear more active if the story is written in active voice.
Do you know what the very first sentence of my novel was? I bet you could guess it: It was a dark and stormy night. Clichés are overused phrases that are unoriginal. Yes, I know authors like Madeleine L’Engle have gotten away with using them, but chances are you won’t. Be original, and create your own unique way of describing things in your story.
Skip using descriptive dialogue tags
Don’t go about attaching things like “she exclaimed” or “he ranted” to dialogue, as you’re just telling your reader how a character says or feels about something. A character’s actions and dialogue should be sufficient enough to convey their emotions and meaning to the reader. No one’s going to throw a thesaurus at you for repeating the word “said” every time a character says something.
Refrain from weaving in big words when a little one will suffice
It’s perfectly okay to use big words, especially if they fit better than smaller ones. Just don’t go inserting SAT words into your story for the sake of appearing smart. When I was taught to write reports and essays for school, I was told to use big words to show that I was well spoken. Which is exactly what I applied to my novel. But writing a novel isn’t like writing a report. You don’t want your readers stopping every two sentences to look up an unfamiliar word. Stick to smaller, simpler words, and use big ones where and when appropriate.
Don’t write scenes without conflict
Most of my very first attempts at writing were just boring day-to-day entries of my MC’s life that lacked conflict. Conflict is needed to spice things up, to hinder characters from reaching their goals. And arguments between characters don’t necessarily equate to conflict. Two characters could argue about the weather, yet it wouldn’t be conflict (unless one of the character’s goals depended on winning that argument). Make your characters’ lives harder by adding conflict that stops them from reaching their goals.
And there you have it. Hopefully these tips aid you in your writing!