5 Quick Ways to Improve Your Fiction Writing

There are many tips and tricks on improving writing skills. Some are more complicated and take time to learn, some are simple but subtle, and then there are a few that take only a few minutes but make all the difference. This article will cover five of those.

Italics. Many new writers tend to rely on italics a little too much. The main uses for italics in fiction writing are foreign words that are not proper nouns, and for exact thoughts that are not noted as such in any other way. For example, if the sentence is tagged with “he thought,” you don’t need italics. Further, unless the thought breaks verb tense or uses a different pronoun (‘I’ instead of ‘he’, for example), it probably doesn’t need italics either.

Semicolons. This punctuation causes grief to writers around the world. The easiest solution? Don’t use it! While a semicolon can be handy, it’s never mandatory. If you don’t truly know the rules, it’s better to not use it at all. Fiction writers should use them sparingly, anyway.

Less is more. It’s easy to get carried away in writing and divulge every little detail. Most stories are better with limited, important descriptions. Also, let the description flow through the action instead of pausing the scene to explain everything. Anchor the reader and then keep going.

Splitting phrases. The English language has many phrases such as “turned down,” “opened up” or “tore off.” When speaking, we often split these phrases and that habit tends to carry over into writing. Many times, a sentence will look and flow much smoother if the words are kept together. For example, instead of “he turned the volume down,” use “he turned down the volume.” Or, “she opened the can up,” use “she opened up the can.” This is not always possible, but it is more often than not.

Tags and beats. Tags are words added at the end of dialogue, such as “she said.” Instead of relying solely on those, replace some with beats. These are actions that show what the character is doing while they are speaking. For example, “I don’t know about that.” He put down his coffee mug. “We’ll have to ask the aliens.”

Writing is a learning process that never ends. There are always new ways to improve, but properly using italics and semicolons, pruning excessive words, keeping together phrases and mixing up tags and beats are all steps in the right direction.

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