5 Tips To Polish Your Fiction

5 Tips To Polish Your Fiction
Publish date:

Half the difference between what works and what doesn''t in fiction has to do with how the words are phrased. If you want to be a polished writer, remember these rules for smoother and more powerful writing.

    1. Use appropriate and frequent paragraph breaks.
      Readers want breaks. That''s why text is divided into paragraphs to begin with. A skillful writer can always find a spot to put in a hard return. If you can't, look again; you can so.
    • Use only one name for a character.
      If the character, Ron Carpenter, is a doorman, call him either Ron or Carpenter, but not both. And be careful about referring to him as ''the doorman.'' Although that seems like a good substitute for the name that has been repeated so often, unless his occupation is more than clear, the alternation between name and job title can be confusing.
    • Choose entirely distinct character names.
      Don''t name your two lead characters Stan and Steve. Sure the names are different, but readers can''t always track that fact—especially when they pick up the book three days later to read again.
    • Don''t use slang unless you clarify it.
      I''m pretty well-read but when I came across the phrase "seven deadlies" with the assertion that they built to felonies, I thought this was a special law-enforcement phrase and not a way of referring to the Seven Deadly Sins.
    • Limit your use of possibly offensive language.
      Reasons exist for characters to swear. But remember that, nowadays, most books are bought by women and many women don''t like swearing for swearing''s sake (even in gritty or naturalistic novels).

    To make sure you get your stories off to a roaring start, keep them tight and crisp throughout and conclude them with a wallop, consider:
    Elements Of Writing Fiction: Beginnings, Middles & Ends

    Image placeholder title

    Become a WD VIP and Save 10%:
    Get a 1-year pass to WritersMarket.com, a 1-year subscription to Writer's Digest magazine and 10% off all WritersDigestShop.com orders! Click here to join.

    Also check out these items from the Writer's Digest's collection:
    Writer's Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Scene & Structure

    Writer's Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Conflict, Action & Suspense
    Writer's Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Description
    Writer's Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Characters & Viewpoint

    Writer's Digest No More Rejections
    Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

    Writer's Digest How to Land a Literary Agent (On-Demand Webinar)
    Writer's Digest Magazine One-Year Subscription
    Writer's Digest 10 Years of Writer's Digest on CD: 2000-2009


    The “Secret Sauce” Necessary to Succeed at a 30-Day Writing Challenge

    In this article, author and writing coach Nina Amir lays out her top tips to master your mindset and complete a 30-day writing challenge.


    Crashing Into New Worlds: Writing About the Unfamiliar

    Award-winning crime author Stephanie Kane explains how she builds characters unlike herself and navigates their worlds to create vivid and realistic stories.


    Plot Twist Story Prompts: Without a Trace

    Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave without a trace.


    Vintage WD: The Truth about True Crime

    In this article from July 2000, true crime novelist and former New York Times correspondent Lisa Beth Pulitzer shares with us some key insights for breaking into the true crime genre.


    New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

    New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


    Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

    Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

    Poetry Prompt

    Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

    Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a spooky poem.


    Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

    WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.